Susan Meiorin awoke June 21 to find her car door open, with the perpetrator leaving an unusual calling card: bear paw prints.

The bear has made its way around the Drag Lake area all week, breaking window screens and opening car doors in search of food. In one case, the bear destroyed the interior of a car, which Meiorin said likely occurred when it got trapped inside after the door closed behind it. She said the bear than had to be released out the back by OPP.

The neighbourhood is on alert now, Meiorin said, locking doors, closing windows and posting regular updates. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) put out a live trap June 26 in hopes of capturing the bear, she said

“Everyone’s quite aware and being very diligent,” she said. “Just the sheer shock that a bear can open your car door. It’s amazing.”

MNRF senior media relations spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski said the ministry is working with Haliburton Highlands OPP to be responsive to the situation. He said every year, they receive reports of bear break-ins, including cars, which happen when a window is partly down, and doors are unlocked.

“Bears are quite clever at figuring out how to open unlocked car doors and can do a lot of damage to the interior of a vehicle when the door closes behind them and they are unable to escape,” Kowalski said.

He said the most important step to preventing such encounters is to remove items that attract bears from the neighbourhood: garbage, bird food, barbecue odours and ripe fruit left on trees or on the ground.

“When bears cannot gain access to non-natural foods, such as garbage, they will not stay in the area,” he said.

Meiorin said the neighbourhood is taking those steps now. She said authorities have told her the bear is young – likely one or two years old – and probably struggling as seasonal conditions mean berries are hard to come by.

Her family has also given the bear a name: Lola.

“Trying to make light of it, but at the same time, everyone’s on edge,” she said.

Meiorin said she hopes the MNRF can capture the bear safely and release it somewhere further away.

“I don’t want them to have to shoot,” she said. “Everyone just wants them to be able to capture it, release it and hopefully Lola will not return.”

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