Living in a remote area has a certain appeal. Far from the hustle and bustle of cities, there’s also a lot more nature and wildlife than you’ll find in the suburbs.
But while nature can be beautiful, it also comes with certain risks. Especially when you live in the woods, you have to take certain precautions about how you interact with the wildlife.
Small Forest Town
When Julie decided to move into the San Bernardino Mountains, a big part of the appeal was living among wildlife. Her family chose to move into a little A-frame cabin in the small town of Forest Falls, California, a wooded community of about 1,100 people, 70 miles east of Los Angeles.
Unfortunately, as it happens in so many communities are built on the edge of where human society meets with nature, Julie was having some problems with the local wildlife. Squirrels on the roof or raccoons in the garbage wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but this problem was much, much worse…
Enter the Bear
It all began on a Friday night when a 400-pound male bear broke into her garage. The wild animal had apparently smelled something in her garbage worth investigating. Fortunately, Julie was able to chase the bear off with mace before any harm came to her or her family.
Julie decided to move her garbage containers to the inside of the home, removing the incentive for the bear to come around. She’d hoped that that would be all the action necessary to protect herself and her family…
A couple of weeks later, Julie came home with her three children, ages 5, 6, and 9, to a sort of reverse-goldilocks situation. There in her kitchen was the same bear, standing there as plain as day, after gravely injuring Julie’s dog.
Back in the Car
Julie rushed her children back out of the house and into the car. After she had moved her children to safety, she called 911 and explained the situation. By the time a game warden arrived at her home, the bear was still nearby, outside the home. The warden used bean bag rounds from her shotgun to drive him back into the woods…
Likely to Return
More than just a nuisance, this bear had injured her pet and threatened her children. The game warden believed that it was likely the bear would return again and so, issued a permit to Julie, allowing her to kill the dangerous animal. Ideally, Julie would never have a reason or opportunity to use it.
But the bear had other ideas in mind. Later that very same night, the bear came back and broke into Julie’s home again, this time coming in through the bathroom window. Julie was again able to chase the bear off but after this last encounter, she’d had enough…
Calling In Some Help
The next day Julie called a friend who is a hunter and asked him to keep a watch out for the bear. Just a few days later, the bear popped up again at around 2 am, this time charging toward the house. Julie’s friend took aim at the bear, fired, and killed him.
Finally, Julie’s pets and family were safe. She thought she could put the whole bear scenario behind her. But shortly after the bear had been killed, Julie found herself in the middle of a brand new ordeal…
It turns out a number of the residents were shocked to find out that Julie, who had just moved to Forest Fells a couple of months ago, had killed the woodland creature. “My heart sunk,” one neighbor named Alycia said. “They are beloved to us up here.”
Julie suddenly found herself the subject of a lot of anger and contempt from some of the other members of the small town. “I’ve had death threats and my address posted all over social media,” she said.
Many people believed that it hadn’t been necessary for Julie to kill the bear. “I have lived here for seven years and never had a problem with a bear going in [my] house,” said one neighbor named Pennie. She believed that if Julie had better secured her garbage in the first place, there never would have been a dangerous situation.
Further, Pennie believed that Julie could have used a less lethal method of getting rid of the bear or even simply used avoidance. “Go to a neighbor. Get in a car. They don’t hurt you as long as you leave them alone,” Pennie said. “My son walks home at 2 o’clock in morning. No problem.”
Food and Fear
The problem with that thinking is Julie had already employed several non-lethal strategies and the bear kept returning to her home.The bear seemed to have lost its natural fear of humans, which may have been caused by the fact that some people in the community were feeding the wild animals. “It’s not legal and it’s dangerous if something happens,” said Andrew Hughan, a Fish and Wildlife spokesman.
Julie would actually characterize herself as an animal lover, citing the fact that she’s foster 15 dogs over the past year. In her eyes, it was just a matter of safety. “[The bear] had already come into my house Friday night and then again broke into my kitchen early Saturday morning and attacked my dog,” she said. “I have my three babies in the house.”
Hughan agreed with Julie’s belief that she’d done the right thing. “I understand that people are upset,” said Hughan. “We don’t want to destroy animals unless we have to. The fact is this bear was inside the residence and had been inside the house several times.”
“At the end of the day this is not a bear problem, it’s a people problem,” Hughan said. When you live on the border of nature and civilization, you have to be considerate of how your actions may affect wildlife. “Going forward it’s everyone’s responsibility to maintain their trash cans and keep their property cleaned up.”
She’s Got Supporters
Not all of Forest Fells was upset with Julie. Some of the residents thought the backlash against her was uncalled for. “I’ve had people come by and have real conversations with me and that gave me a little encouragement and hope for the future,” Julie said.
The incident pushed community leaders to hold a special meeting at the Forest Falls Community Center. There, they wanted to discuss how to live safely with wildlife and what precautions to take. Julie planned to attend. “I know this community, and when tragedies happen they usually pull together,” she said. “I hope this will happen here.”