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Bear breaks into home in Elk Creek

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By Larry Chambers, Staff

ELK CREEK – It’s frightening enough to see a bear in your yard, but downright scary when it comes into your house.
That’s what happened on July 29 at the home of Tim and Marcia Sutherland, who live at 692 Caty Sage Road in Elk Creek.
Sutherland, who works at the East Independence branch office of Grayson National Bank, has been popular lately as people asked about her bear.

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On the morning of July 29, she woke up and thought she heard something. “I just laid there for a few minutes and didn’t hear anything else,” Sutherland said.
She got up and washed her hair.
She said she heard a pecking noise and thought it was a bird on the roof.
“Then I heard a crash on the deck involving glass. I looked out the window and saw a bear running up the hill behind the house with a plastic bag in his mouth and shaking his head.”
Sutherland ran to the living room to get a camera and take a picture and show her husband that there was a bear in the yard.
“I didn’t want to open the door and scare the bear off. I got to the kitchen window to take the picture and noticed that the screen was gone. I found the screen lying in the floor, bent.”
She looked at the sink and countertop and saw paw prints all over them.
“It then dawns on me that the bear had been in my house. I go ballistic. My dog Ruby is barking her head off, jumping up and going crazy.”
Sutherland called her husband at work. “He told me that I was panicking. I really was. There had been a bear in my house.”
While talking to her husband, she saw the bear coming back.
“Tim told me to get the gun. Then the bear turned and went in the direction of my neighbor and Tim told me to call 911.”
The Grayson County Sheriff’s Department told Sutherland they would send a deputy to her house.
“After calling my mother-in-law to tell her what was going on, I went to get the gun just in case. Then the bear is back and heading toward my kitchen window. I was thinking that I was going to have to shoot at the bear, but I doubt if I could hit it because I was shaking so bad,” she said.
She went to the window to take aim, and heard a car coming up the road fast.
“I heard it turn up my driveway and figured it’s the deputy sheriff. I went running out the front door to talk with the deputy, barefooted, a robe on and my hair up in a towel. My bare feet hit the wet grass and I landed on the ground and slid down toward the driveway, still holding Ruby and the gun.”
The deputy went around the house and saw the bear, but he told Sutherland he’d have to wait for animal control. Another deputy arrived and got a double-barrel shotgun from his car and loaded it.
“The deputy said they were told to put the bear down if they saw it,” Sutherland said. “By this time, the bear is gone and the deputies couldn’t find it.”
She later figured out that the bag the bear was carrying out of the house was a cake decorator bag that was in the sink, unwashed, after she had decorated a cake the evening before.
“He also got one of my Princess House casserole dishes that had chicken broccoli casserole that we had finished eating the night before and took it out on the deck and dropped it.”
Two days later, on the morning of July 31, Sutherland was getting ready to leave for work at about 8 a.m. when she had a second encounter with the bear.
“I happened to look out the kitchen window and see the bear go across the yard toward some outbuildings. I grabbed my S&W long barrel pistol and went out the front door,” she said.
She was looking for the bear toward the outbuildings when she rounded the corner of the house and started toward the backyard deck. “There, standing at my kitchen window, was the bear. He was as tall as me, five-and-half feet.
“I slipped up toward him and he didn’t see me. I was about 15 feet from him when Ruby barked inside the house. I had the gun raised and sighted on the bear, but he turned toward the hill and saw me and started to take off.”
Sutherland shot, but missed. “I guess I let the gun move up and I shot over him. I shot two more times as he headed up the hill, but didn’t hit him.”
While on the phone with her husband, Sutherland said she noticed the bear meandering around the edge of the woods. “I told Tim that I thought the bear was crazy.”
A game warden issued the Sutherlands a kill permit for the bear the next day. Sutherland said the game warden told her that if she had killed the bear that morning, he would have had to give her a ticket. “I didn’t agree with that, but I understand.”
Game wardens brought a large trap to the Sutherlands’ home and it was placed in a wooded area with bait inside.
A bear — the Sutherlands hope it was their bear burglar — was caught in the trap some time during the night of Aug. 19.
A game warden from the Marion office of the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF) picked up the bear and transported it away from the Sutherland’s home.
Alan Boynton, terrestrial wildlife biologist manager for the Virginia DGIF’s Marion office, said the bear was released back into the wild in the Clinch Mountain range.
Boynton said the bear population is increasing every year and more and more sightings are being reported.
He said 38 bears were killed during the 2012 hunting seasons in Grayson County and 49 in 2011.
Because bears are considered big game, they have to be checked after anyone kills one, Boynton said.
Checking stations are located at 21 Grocery in Elk Creek and Fox Creek General Store in the Grant community.