Michelle Eberhart told CNN that the bear opened a locked door and forced its way into the cabin on Friday morning. She and her friend were inside chatting while their husbands were out playing golf.
“She just looked up, and she was kind of making some motion and I couldn’t figure out what was going on,” Eberhart said. “So I kind of moved a little bit and saw what she was freaking out about.”
They ran upstairs and hid in a bedroom, while the bear wandered around the cabin. She said three other bears were milling around on the porch.
She thinks a second bear came inside at one point because their snouts were different colors in her pictures, but she saw only one inside at a time.
Eberhart said they didn’t have a good view of what was happening but said the bears were pretty active downstairs.
“It knocked over the trash, it knocked over a book, and it destroyed a couple of decks of cards and it scratched up a lot of stuff. There were scratches on walls and the floor,” she said. She said they didn’t damage or knock over the furniture.
The bears also ate a ton of candy and snacks that were sitting on the kitchen counter and took some of it outside.
They got away with five pounds of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, a pound of M&M’s, two pounds of Sour Patch Kids, two bags of potato chips, a tub of peanut butter pretzels and two bags of Dove salted caramel candy, Eberhart said. They also took two beers, two Diet Cokes and some of her allergy medicine.
She reached the rental cabin’s owner, who called police.
When an officer arrived and opened the door, the bear ran out of the house and jumped off a balcony, Eberhart said.
The officer shooed off the other three bears and made a temporary repair to the door, so it would stay locked until it could be fixed.
Eberhart said she saw 11 bears on Monday after their friends left. She and her husband also saw scratches on the side of the house where bears had climbed up and knocked over a grill.
She said they heard another bear trying to get into the house early Tuesday morning. Her husband scared it off.
“I did not sleep at all. It was very nerve-wracking,” she said.
They decided to get up early and drive back home to Indiana, Eberhart said.
She said they hadn’t left any food out or done anything to encourage the bears.
Rare for bears to enter homes
Matthew Cameron with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency told CNN that it is rare for bears to enter homes, but it does happen.
Cameron said the bears were probably yearling siblings that learned to look for human food from their mother.
This time of year, he said, bears are surviving on emerging green vegetation, flowers, budding leaves, insects and their larvae.
“Unfortunately, this lack of available, natural food drives some bears to seek out human foods and engage in nuisance behavior,” he said. “This aggressive behavior will continue until the summer berries begin to ripen, but that’s still over a month away.”
Authorities haven’t had any similar reports in the area, but they have put out some traps for the bears.
Cameron said they would probably relocate the animals if they catch them.
“There is no ‘Stay at Home Order’ for wildlife during this pandemic and black bears are very active right now due to the lack of available, natural food sources,” he said in an email.