Bear raids kitchen of Pownal home

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POWNAL — A quest for a midnight snack led to a close encounter with wildlife for one Roizin Road resident Monday.

Amelia Silver woke up around midnight to "clanging and banging" in her kitchen. "Of course, I thought maybe it was my cat climbing the sink," she said. But when she turned the fan off in her room to hear better, she heard running water.

"Then I got really scared — I thought it was a person," she said. "I thought, what person is coming into my house and turning on water?"

She walked out to the catwalk overlooking the lower floor, and used her phone light to illuminate the area around the kitchen sink. "I saw large black paws and a large black shape," she said.

A bear was on, or maybe in, her kitchen sink.

"I was really, really scared," she said. "Just having a bear inside your house is really a strange feeling. Chaos has been unleashed inside your house."

Silver called the police — but by the time state troopers arrived about 20 to 25 minutes later,

the bear was no longer in the kitchen. After a through search of her house, police concluded that the bear had left.

Silver said she believes it came through the kitchen window, which she had just recently started leaving open. It broke the faucet on the sink, which explained the sound of running water, and knocked over some crockery she had on the windowsill. It also left behind a sealed box of honeycomb.

"My daughter said, 'Oh, he's actually Winnie the Pooh,'" Silver said. "He's actually looking for honey."

There was also a covered container of compost nearby. "I think he was just hungry, looking for some food," she said.

Silver lives on 20 acres of land off Carpenter Hill Road. No one else was home at the time the bear was in the house.

Troopers initially thought it was a bear cub, judging by marks on the outside of the house and on the kitchen window screen, Silver said.

She said she spoke with the local game warden, who looked at the marks and said it was likely an adolescent bear — in human terms, a teenager.

The idea of a teenage bear fondly reminded Silver of her years working with teenagers at the Sunrise Family Resource Center in Bennington.

"I thought ... a teenager bear knows that I like teens," she said.

Bears of this age — known to game wardens as long yearlings, between one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half years old — are constantly looking for food.

"Right now, that age group of bears are no longer with their mother," said Travis Buttle, sergeant state game warden with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. "They've been kind of kicked out on their own."

He compared bears of this age to young adults just graduating from high school, who may be on their own.

Human-bear encounters are more common in the spring and early summer, he said.

It's "very rare" for bears to want to enter a dwelling, as they're skittish by nature, he said.

They might get into garbage cans, a chicken coop where feed is stored, or carports and garages for bird feed or dog food, he said.

Silver, who has lived in Bennington County since 1990, has seen bears before.

"When I first moved to Pownal, I made the mistake of having my bird feeders out," she said. One day, she saw a bear standing about four feet from her porch at the feeder. And she's seen bears and bear cubs in the orchards of Southern Vermont.

As scared as she was seeing the bear in her home, Silver said she doesn't think she was in real danger.

"I guess I could have really been in danger, but I don't think I was in real danger," she said. "Bears really don't want to hurt people."

And, she said, she's lucky.

"I thought, how lucky I am that I've never had my house invaded by criminals, or strangers," she said. "I've never had ICE come."

From now on, she said, she'll keep her kitchen window shut.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BEN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.

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