Up on The Rooftop, Black Bear Paws

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Some years back, I was driving through Igo late one night. I slammed on my brakes as I rounded a corner. There, in the middle of the road, staring at me through the windshield, was a huge mountain lion. It turned its head, and continued walking across the road. I later learned that cat had a bounty on its head. It was suspected of hauling live calves, goats and even sheep over fences, before dragging them away. We’re talking one huge, powerful cat.

Many people who’ve spent their lives in the great outdoors have told me how rare it is to see a mountain lion of that size and obvious age, that close up, in the wild, let alone in the middle of a road.

When I stopped shaking, I considered myself lucky. I never expected to see that magnificent mountain lion then, just down the road from the Igo post office, no more than I expected to have a bear on my roof Sunday, where I live in downtown Redding’s Garden Tract. This neighborhood is not near a green belt. My house is in the middle of a neighborhood.

I now think of all the times I’ve been out in nature when I’ve wished I could see a bear, from a safe distance. The time I was with some women friends in a boat on Shasta Lake, eating KFC and drinking wine, does not count. That bear was on the shore, reaching into the water through berry vines for surprised fish. The bear was exactly where it was supposed to be. The boat of women? We were the intruders.

Sunday morning, I got closer to a black bear than I ever wanted, although, granted, I was safely (I thought) behind my bedroom window.

It was a few minutes before 7 a.m. when I was awakened by an incredible noise on my roof.

The bear was on the far left side of my roof, near the oak tree, which is how it gained rooftop access.

Let me stop here and explain that I live in a 58-year-old house that has vaulted, beamed ceilings. There’s no insulation there, which allows people inside to hear every single raindrop, every fallen acorn, every squirrel stomp. Loudly.

So when I woke – heart pounding – to the racket above my bedroom, I knew it was something big, alive and on the move. For a fleeting second, before fully awake, I wondered if some good Samaritan was removing leaves from my gutters. My second thought was that there were burglars on my roof. That thought made about as much sense as guessing a bear was on my roof.

I ran to my bedroom window.

In this view of the tree through the window, all we see now is bark. But use your imagination for a moment and imagine seeing a black bear framed in that window, before it scampered down the tree and out of view.

My guess is that the bear was in my neighbor’s yard first. She and I share that oak, a “line tree” that straddles each of our properties. I think the bear climbed up her side of the tree and came over to my side, and onto my roof, where it’s only about an 18-inch gap between the tree and the house, a thought that horrifies me during every storm.

Please God, do not let that giant oak tree fall on my house.

I could kick myself now for using my phone to call 911 to report the bear. I could have used that precious time to snap a photo, or get some video of the bear as it climbed down the tree, ran around my pool, stepped up and onto my wooden planter box, grabbed the fence (broke a piece), and hoisted itself up, over and down into the alley.

Your address? Your name? Which direction did the bear go?

How could I have known that since before Sunday’s dawn, other frantic people had placed 911 calls about that same rambling bear?

I got dressed, grabbed my camera, jumped in my car and went on a bear hunt. I first checked the alley where I’d seen the bear disappear. Bingo! No bear, but I did find a huge pile of bear scat. I posted a photo of it on Facebook, but I’ll spare you the sight here. Trust me when I say it’s impressive.

On East Street, I stopped and chatted with a Redding Police officer, where she was parked kitty corner from the old R&R Meats. The officer said she actually saw the bear — “a big boy” — cross East Street and then run up the hill toward Pine Street, which is where it was at that moment.  I spoke with a couple of more RPD officers on Pine Street, and saw yet another RPD vehicle on South Street.

They had the area nicely covered. The bear was supposedly hanging out in the middle of that sliver of brushy, undeveloped space. RPD was just waiting for someone from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to show up and take care of the bear situation.

Some time later the bear somehow escaped the East, Pine, South area, and made its way to Market and California streets, where it sat in a tree. A DFW officer arrived and “darted” it with a tranquilizer. The bear fell from the tree and was taken away.

I am waiting for a call back from the DFW officer who actually shot the bear with the dart, but in the meantime I was told that the bear was tagged and released away from civilization, unharmed.

Oh, that’s sweet.

But then I saw the video on KRCR of the bear falling from the tree to the ground. I couldn’t imagine it surviving that drop. I worried that the bear was injured. I wondered if the story of the bear’s “relocation” was similar to stories parents tell their kids after they’ve taken the aging family pet to be put down, but instead tell the kids they took the dog to the “farm”.

I want to know how the bear really is.

But for now, there’s hope. I hope our downtown Redding bear is alive, and contented, like the bear in this photo.

I hope our downtown Redding bear is just lounging in the sunshine, dreaming of the Garden Tract … and what might have been.

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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12 Responses

  1. Avatar Kathleen says:

    I thought the same thing when I saw the bear fall. I hope you can tell us that the bear really survived the fall. I’ve seen them dart bears before but they always have them fall on a cushioned area.

  2. AJacoby AJacoby says:

    I am amazed at the wildlife that shows up in heavily populated areas . . . and I’ not talking about the dance floor in a downtown club. The deer have decimated my roses over the past ten years or so. That wasn’t too much of a surprise, but I was totally taken aback to walk out on my deck and count ELEVEN wild turkeys. Later I counted nineteen of them crossing the road below my house. But a BEAR???? OMG, now I’m going to think of that when I come home after dark and have to exit my garage to get into my front door. YIIIIKES!!

    I’m with you in hopping the bear faired well.

  3. Avatar Peggy Elwood says:

    I love a good in-town bear story! We had one in my neighborhood a few years ago. The bear, smaller than yours, climbed a big fir tree across the street, stretched out on a horizontal limb, and took a nap for about an hour. The neighbors and I sat in our lawn chairs and had quite the afternoon of entertainment. Eventually the bear came down, moved to a tree on the next street over, was darted, and taken away. Could it be the same bear, all grown up now?

  4. Deb Deb says:

    I hope the bear is happily roaming out there, too. But what an encounter you had!

    If bears had Facebook he would have uploaded a photo of sleepy, slightly panicked you, as you spotted him shimmying down the oak tree. Caption: “Ha ha! I sure startled her good! But sorry about your fence, lady!”

  5. Avatar Canda says:

    How scary to hear something that big on your roof! That image of the bear coming down the tree won’t leave you anytime soon, will it? It’ll make a great Noni story for the grandkids! Yikes!

  6. Avatar Dan J Mabry says:

    Sorry but I can’t “bear” the wait for part two of this story. The complete WHO, What, where and WHY? What did the “Bear” (name?) have to say to you? Where was he from, where was he taken. And WHY did he try contacting a reporter?

    Enquiring minds want to know!

  7. Avatar EasternCounty says:

    My husband tried to console me regarding the hard fall the bear had. He said that once a bear is tranquilized, he is very limp, and the danger of its being injured is very small. Hope he’s right.

  8. I am glad I’m not the only one who was concerned about the bear being hurt when it fell from that tree! I had to look away from the TV when I realized what was happening! I felt awful for it! Wish they didn’t show that on the news. 🙁 Yes, Doni, please update us if they tell you what the end of this story is.
    What will it be next for you, the wolf coming to blow your house down?

  9. Avatar Anonymous Heckler says:

    One of the officers involved in the bear call and the later arrest on Lincoln Street told me this story:

    The dude they arrested was wantes for beating his wife (or girlfriend). After battering her, he drove off to shoot heroin in his car, which he parked, yes, on Lincoln Street. With the doors open. Officer who found him passed out said he was lucky not to have been eaten by the bear.

    Then the junkie tells the officer that before he went to shoot up, he made himself a sandwich. But he never ate the sandwich. He left it on his lap while giving himself his fix. But when he was roused it was gone.

    So. Your bear stole your junkie’s sandwich. At least, that’s what the cops are saying.

  10. Avatar name says:

    Bears are tough. It would have to have fallen from 40-50 feet to hurt it, even then it probably would have been fine.

  11. Avatar Ginny says:

    I called my neighbors one night to say a coyote, the biggest I ever saw, was in their yard trying to catch their Doxy. Fortunately, the Doxy wasn’t the meal dejour for the coyote.

    All of the animals come to town for food and water, if they can’t find it near their home. But, they sure can be scary!!

  12. I am so relieved to learn that our downtown Redding bear is OK. Read all about it here. https://anewscafe.com/2014/11/20/the-bear-facts-a-conversation-with-pete-figura/