BILLINGS, Mont. — A Montana couple got a late-night wakeup call from a barking dog alerting them that a black bear had broken into their living room before the man shot and killed the animal with a handgun.
The confrontation with the large bruin happened in the rural community of Luther at the base of the rugged Beartooth Mountains, where Thomas Bolkcom and fiance Seeley Oblander live with their two dogs.
After staying up late the night before — the couple was scheduled to fly that morning to Arizona for their bachelor and bachelorette parties — they awakened about 3 a.m. to their dog Maizey barking furiously upstairs from the house’s main floor, Oblander said.
Bolkcom, 27, a commercial painter and elk hunter, went to investigate and tried to coax the lab-pit bull mix downstairs when he turned around “and there’s this black bear standing in the living room five feet away,” Oblander said.
Wearing only a t-shirt and underwear, Bolkcom ran back downstairs, got a handgun and returned to the living room where he shot the bear. It ran into another room so he shot the bear several more times.
The animal had broken in through a screened window. Oblander, 26, said it had no other way out and was between Bolkcom and the door.
“I never thought there would be a bear in our house, so that was quite the wakeup call at three in the morning,” she said. “I just stayed downstairs with the dogs, trying to help keep them out of the way and let Tom handle it. He did a great job.”
The couple and Bolkcom’s brother dragged the bear outside then called their fathers, who came to the house to meet with a game warden so the others could catch a morning flight. The warden told them the bear was about 10 years old and 250-300 pounds (113-136 kilograms), said Rocky Oblander, who returned to the house Friday to remove blood-stained carpets.
“At least nobody got hurt,” he said. “It’s just too sad because it was a beautiful bear.”
The warden determined the shooting was justified in self-defense, said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesperson Chrissy Webb.
Black bears frequent the area and in recent weeks one had been prowling the neighborhood, getting food from unsecured garbage cans and other sources, Webb said. Although the house that was broken into did not have unsecured food or garbage, Webb said the bear likely became habituated to associate humans with food, creating a dangerous situation for local residents and the animal.
“This is pretty abnormal behavior to have a bear entering a home,” Webb said. “This large male black bear ended up dying because of improperly stored attractants in the community.”
Bears become more active in the spring and summer and in recent weeks they have been spotted in a Southern California jacuzzi, a backyard in Maine and in an Idaho man’s garage.
Last month near West Yellowstone, Montana, a grizzly bear killed a 48-year-old Kansas woman while she was running or hiking on a trail west of Yellowstone National Park.
By Matthew Brown