SIERRA MADRE, Calif. — Imagine your surprise and likely fear to come home and find your front door wide open with a loud ransacking-commotion coming from the inside. Now, imagine your additional shock to find a large, brown bear sitting at your front door and her cubs devouring a bucket of KFC on your kitchen counter. That is exactly what Sidney native John Holden found when he returned to his California home after running some quick, lunch-time errands on Oct. 28.
“I bought some Kentucky Fried Chicken I was going to eat for lunch, and I had left to just run some quick errands,” Holden said. “When I first came home, I wasn’t really afraid of the (large, mother) bear, I was mostly worried about my pets.”
Holden’s wife Romelyn and their 7-year-old son Oliver were not home at the time, but their dog Woody, and two parakeets, Mike and Ditka were.
Living in California with the Angeles National Park in the back yard, seeing brown bears on a regular basis is not unusual for the Holdens. At first, Holden said with a chuckle, he didn’t think there was anything interesting about the bears eating his KFC, and instead complained he was more annoyed they ate his lunch. But after talking with friends about it, he realized others would probably find it a funny and interesting story.
“I really wasn’t thinking,” he said when asked if he was scared when running by the mama bear into the house. “I could hear my house being ransacked and a loud commotion, and I was so scared for my pets. I wasn’t even thinking about being scared. I was just thinking, ‘Get out of my house!’”
Holden instantly ran inside looking for his pets and saw the bird cage on the ground. He was able to grab Mike, but Ditka and Woody were nowhere in site. Unfortunately, Ditka was never found, but a neighbor saw a bear cub chasing Woody down the road and got him their car, and eventually returned home safe and sound.
“I thank my neighbor almost everyday now for saving my dog,” Holden said.
“She (the mother bear) wasn’t aggressive,” he continued. “I’ve seen bears around here before and I’m able to scare them off and make a lot of noise and stuff, but when I came up the stairs (on that particular day) she was just sitting, chilling out. I guess she was just hanging out while her cubs were going crazy in my house. And I tried making noise to get her to go, but she wasn’t going anywhere. She was basically just looking at me, like, ‘what the..?’”
The bears tore the Holden home upside-down. It is likely, Holden said, that the mother bear was the one that busted open the locked front door, causing damage to the door jam and lock. The cubs scratched up the kitchen, broke most all their dishes and went through the whole house, including through clothes and toys.
“I don’t know what they were doing, but they were going through everything. And I don’t know if she (the mother bear) was in the house or not, I just saw her sitting there,” he said. “I never found Ditka, but I was able to find Mike when I came outside. The most important thing to me was when I saw Woody. I was so happy when I saw him. I was sorry about Ditka, but was happy about Woody; it could have been worse.”
He said although his family regularly sees brown bears in their back yard, which are typically not aggressive toward humans, and they will often try to get into the specially locked trash cans outside, he has never had one try to enter their home before.
Holden’s wife was annoyed the bears made such a mess and destroyed their kitchen, he said. He and his wife are still are putting their house back together, are repainting the kitchen, and had to buy new dishes. Oliver, however, thought it was hilarious the bears were in his room playing with his toys.
“I yelled at them and after a couple of minutes got them out of the house. It was such a mess, but it could have been worse,” Holden said. “For the rest of the day, they didn’t go anywhere but laid in the back yard like they were full.”