An 88-year-old woman in Norman Wells, N.W.T., says she had a terrifyingly close encounter with a black bear that rummaged through her refrigerator, eating pickles, and was eventually shot.
Cece McCauley says she woke up around 3:30 a.m. MT on Aug. 2 to the sound of her granddaughter's puppy growling.
"I heard something in the kitchen, and I thought, 'Oh, my grandson is home looking for something to eat,'" McCauley told CBC News in an interview broadcast Monday.
"There was the bear in my fridge. Great big black bear. Didn't even look at me, he was so busy eating and looking in my fridge."
McCauley said she quickly barricaded the bear behind the porch and kitchen doors, then ran to her seven-year-old granddaughter, who had a friend over for a sleepover.
Children escape to truck
"I ran to the bedroom and I said, 'Come on kids, wake up! There's a bear in the house!' I said, 'Just run out to my truck and close the door.'"
McCauley also called for help from her neighbour, the RCMP and Dudley Johnson, mayor of the town of about 800.
"Mr. Mayor, there's a bear in my house," Johnson remembered hearing when he picked up the phone.
"When we arrived on the scene, Cece was out by the door next to her truck. She had two small children in her truck," Johnson added.
"To me, she looked like a warrior, ready to tackle the bear."
Found eating pickles
Johnson said the two-year-old black bear was found eating some pickles it found in the bottom drawer of the fridge.
The bear was shot and killed on McCauley's porch. N.W.T. environment officials say they're investigating the incident.
McCauley said a new fence around the local dump is driving more bears into Norman Wells, about 700 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife.
Johnson said the town erected the fence to protect people at the dump, but McCauley said she wants the structure taken down.
"We used to be fine," she said. "You don't need a fence around a garbage dump. You should put the fence around a playground, for Pete's sake."
Fence meant to work: official
But Alistair Veitch, a wildlife management supervisor with the N.W.T. Environment Department, said the landfill fence — when it's properly working — is the best option for keeping bears out of Norman Wells.
Vetich said town officials have expanded the dump over the last couple of years, making it almost twice its previous size.
"The electric fence that was in place hasn't been operational for the last two summers," he said Monday. "During that time, we've gone back to almost the pre-1990 situation where … more than a dozen bears can be found in the dump [on] some nights."
The fence around the old landfill succeeded in keeping most bears out, so the new fence is expected to work just as well, Veitch said.
He added that letting bears forage through people's garbage makes the animals accustomed to eating garbage. That habit is not easy to break, but Veitch said it is necessary in order to stop bears from hanging around town.
Veitch said the Environment Department is stepping up its bear monitoring efforts, with officers patrolling the town more often, especially in the evenings.