This Fearless Bear Stole a Family’s Car and Went Joyriding

black bear walks alone on wooden boardwalk, surrounded by green, lush trees
Greg Norgaard /iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Written by Katie Melynn Wood

Published: January 10, 2024

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No one wants to wake up to find their car is missing. But it’s even more alarming, not to mention unexpected, when you find out that the culprit is actually a black bear!

A 2017 story shared that a family in Durango, Colorado woke up on August 2nd to find their car missing. The Subaru was in a neighbor’s yard nearby and it was easy to see who was to blame for the joyride. The Sheriff’s Office in La Plata County, where Durango is located, responded to calls from the neighbor. While the exact time of the theft remained unknown, the neighbor commented to local media that it might have been as early as 5:00 am. That’s one early-rising bear!

Are They Sure It Was a Bear?

Wild Bear break into car

Bears often associate cars with food, leading them to look for ways into vehicles.

So how did the authorities know that it was a bear? The biggest clue was what the bear left behind. Not only did the bear commit grand theft auto and go for a joyride, but it left a big pile of waste in the seat. Bear droppings are pretty recognizable, especially for people who live in an area inhabited by bears. It’s not surprising that the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office was familiar enough with bear poop. But this is likely the first account of a bear stealing a car that they’ve responded to.

Other damage to the vehicle included a ripped-off steering wheel, a ripped-out radio, and a broken back window. The bear did quite a bit of damage to the interior of the car, another clue that the Sheriff’s Office used to determine what happened when they inspected the car.

Where Is the Bear Now?

American black bear (Ursus americanus)  Jasper National Park Kanada

Black bears live in this part of Colorado.

The authorities wisely decided not to pursue the bear to press charges. They suspected that the bear accidentally released the parking brake and that the car rolled into the neighbor’s yard. The bear, likely afraid and startled once the car started moving, tore up the interior (and left behind a little gift) as it tried to get away. Bears are common in certain parts of Colorado and even getting into cars is nothing new.

Bears tend to break into cars looking for food to eat. This behavior is not unusual at all. When you go camping or leave your car in a less populated area where bears live, experts recommend that you leave any food or other containers out of sight. Over the years, bears have learned to associate vehicles with food. They can’t always get into the car so much of the damage happens on the outside of the vehicle. In this case, however, the car’s interior also got attention from the bear. Fortunately, as far as the story shared, the bear escaped without injury. We can’t say the same for the car, however. The coverage didn’t state whether or not the incident was covered by auto insurance. We can only hope that the owners didn’t have an exclusion for bear-initiated theft.

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About the Author

Katie is a freelance writer and teaching artist specializing in home, lifestyle, and family topics. Her work has appeared in At Ease Magazine, PEOPLE, and The Spruce, among others. When she is not writing, Katie teaches creative writing with the Apex Arts Magnet Program in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. You can follow Katie @katiemelynnwriter.

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