Katie Hawley was not home when the black bear toured her house in Vail, Colo., but it had no problem getting in. She had accidentally left the kitchen window unlocked, and the bear slid it right open, as if it were familiar with the model.
In the living room, as security camera footage would later reveal, the bear took in the views, loped around the coffee table and briefly stood on its hind legs to play the piano. The animal was less adept with that human-designed apparatus: The music was not very good.
This was no Bear-thoven. Its “Clair de Lune” was more “Bear de Lune”: one atonal chord. Vail police, accustomed to mediating bear-human encounters in the mountain town, declared it “unbearable” and “grizzly.”
Hawley, a 21-year-old college student, did not know any of this had occurred when she arrived home after a night away on the morning of May 31. There was no sign of disturbance in what had briefly been the bear’s concert hall. That came in the hallway and kitchen, where the visitor left things in shambles.
The bear had opened the refrigerator, and the freezer drawer, too. It had emptied a gallon bag of frozen strawberries and bananas that Hawley used for making smoothies, leaving only remainders “kind of slimed all over the carpet” in the hall, she said. It overturned a box of flour. It drank pancake syrup and downed a Costco-sized sack of chocolate bark. It delicately used its padded paws to access the peanut butter.
“That was the crazy thing,” Hawley said. “He twisted the lid and opened it himself.”
Hawley, seeing the mess, ran outside to call the police and report an intruder. A cop came, looked through the house and made the call: “He was like, that was a bear, not a person,” Hawley recalled. She confirmed this for herself that night, when she reviewed the video.
Bears will do a lot for food, including breaking and entering. A Colorado state website explains that “they will eat just about anything with calories,” and it offers a 28-ounce jar of peanut butter (4,750 calories) as one example of an efficient bear snack.
As if to prove the point, the piano-playing bear came back about an hour after Hawley went back inside, she said. The police returned to shoo him up the hill. Hawley said she heard it come back a few more times that day to pound at the window, which by then was locked. She ignored it.
Hawley, who studies hospitality in Florida and is temporarily working at a hotel in Vail, said she had regularly seen bears outside. But, she clarified, “we’ve never had one go into the house.”
Now the kitchen window has been boarded up, and Hawley said she tiptoes and peeks around when she arrives home, just to make sure no bear is there.
“I think the bear is very cute,” she said. “But it just scares me he was in the house.”