HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A retired Pittsburgh schoolteacher could do nothing but laugh after a black bear broke into her car in Montana, destroyed the interior while trying to escape, and finally busted out through the windshield.
The bear became trapped Thursday inside Ellen Stolpe's Toyota Camry at a lodge near Yellowstone National Park.
Stolpe laughed because the incident was so bizarre and she was relieved that nobody was hurt. Still, she worries that the bear's persistent search for food from humans likely will end with it being killed.
"The bear is addicted to food that will put it in danger," said Stolpe, who taught middle school English for 25 years.
Stolpe was in Montana to visit her father, who volunteers at the Yellowstone Bighorn Research Association lodge — a base camp for students doing geology research.
She had been warned about bears in the area so she cleaned the food and trash out of her car but didn't think to lock the doors.
The car was parked on a slope and she believes the bear climbed inside and the door closed behind it, setting off a panic. Someone heard a car horn about 5:30 a.m.
The bear pulled on the driver's door so hard the metal bent. Interior plastic and fabric also was damaged.
"There was definitely a panicked loosening of all bodily functions in the front passenger seat," Stolpe added.
People walking by two hours later apparently spooked the bear and it broke out through the windshield.
Other bear activity has been reported in the Red Lodge area. Earlier this week, two motorcycles were chewed up when bears smelled food inside the saddlebags. A bear also broke into two houses, The Billings Gazette reported.
A bear broke into another vehicle at the lodge to get beef jerky, Stolpe said, and earlier a bear got into a stash of granola bars, leaving the wrappers in a neat pile.
During the late summer and fall, bears begin adding fat reserves as they prepare for hibernation.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials recommend residents store garbage and animal food in a locked building, remove bird feeders from their yards and clean up apples and other potential food sources.