Bear walks into Vons, eats some apples and leaves

Photo of bear in Vons went viral on Facebook.

Photo of bear in Vons went viral on Facebook.



A small black bear recently went on a late night shopping trip for apples at the Mammoth Lakes Vons. While the photos of the bear inspecting the fresh fruit are entertaining, they also serve as a reminder that we are in the busiest season of the year for bear activity.  They are preparing for winter and gorging on food.  Bears that spend most of the summer in the back country have come to town to feed.

This young bear, which has little fear of humans, has become accustomed to relying on people for food.  He now knows how to get into Vons when the store is open and he’s previously entered homes to feast on pie.  He is likely to return to Vons and if he isn’t properly conditioned to not rely on cars, houses, ice chests, and now supermarkets for food, he will become a problem bear and his future will be bleak.

The public is encouraged to take precautions to secure their trash in locking cans and dumpsters, don’t leave food in vehicles or in the open, lock your vehicle doors, and if you encounter a bear that’s misbehavin’, call Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles at (760) 937-BEAR, or the Mammoth Lakes Police Department.

This is also a busy season for other wildlife.  The deer population has begun its migration to lower elevations and there are many deer in Town.  Please slow down and keep your eyes open for deer on or near the roadway.

(Sierra Wave story)

As Vons employees stocked shelves in the wee hours of this morning, a nearly two-year old bear, familiar to Wildlife Officer Steve Searles walked through the electronic doors to Vons and helped himself to some apples.

One of the Vons workers, Margie Castaneda, shot a photo, which is posted on our website. She posted the cute image of the young bear on Facebook and it went viral. Steve Searles said the bear image went all over the world. He said it is one of the cubs that survived after its mother was killed in a traffic accident last year. Searles said the bear grew up with another mother bear. He called it a very tame animal.

This season, the bear walked into homes where the doors were open and took a loaf of bread and some fruit. Mammoth Police, Searles and Fish and Wildlife had a meeting and talked about possibly having to destroy the little bear if he persisted in his home invasions.

Searles said the bear quit entering homes and spent the last two months in the Lakes Basin. He only just returned to town a week ago. Vons employees peacefully coaxed the bear outside this morning after his 1am entrance into the grocery store.

Steve Searles said all bears will go into hibernation in about 30 days, and he hopes the town’s people will pull together to help this bear survive. If residents keep their house doors and car doors locked, that will help. Searles is working on modifying the bear’s behavior with his usual methods. He points out that he has been able to change the ways of a number of problem bears.

So, help the little guy by making it hard for him to get in where he doesn’t belong.

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37 Responses to Bear walks into Vons, eats some apples and leaves

  1. Jim_M October 8, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    Did he show is Vons club card?

  2. Bob October 6, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    I would bet his preferred apples are Honeycrisp!!

  3. MJA October 6, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    >Mammoth Police, Searles and Fish and Wildlife had a meeting and talked about possibly having to destroy the little bear if he persisted in his home invasions.<

    People come to Mammoth to see nature, to be in nature, to see a bear in the mountains would be a highlight for many or most. And you want to kill them because they found some food to eat? Killing is wrong. We must all live together. Let the bear just be, Let Nature be. =

  4. jody October 5, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

    “Bears that spend most of the summer in the back country have come to town to feed.” Dumb statement — why would they go into the back country, when they have thier set dumpster route(s), including McDonalds etc(?). They are all living right here in town all year round.

    • Benett Kessler October 6, 2013 at 7:55 am #

      Actually, they hibernate from the end of October until Spring.

    • Ken Warner October 6, 2013 at 9:19 am #

      And the bears do spend time up in the Lakes Basin stealing strings of fish and grazing camp sites. A bear was killed up there a couple of years ago by somebody with one of those “itchy trigger fingers”.

      • Smokie, yes! October 7, 2013 at 5:32 am #

        It is clear now that some amongst us would prefer to shoot all bears.
        Preferably using their AK-47s.

        • Pedro October 7, 2013 at 11:55 am #

          Faceful of pepper spray or ass full of rock salt might stop him from breaking into houses, stealing apples and getting shot for real.

          • Benett Kessler October 7, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

            One note – it’s tough to be there when the bear crimes occur. Sometimes it’s possible and Steve Searles uses non-lethal means
            to teach the bears their lesson.

          • Bear Training October 7, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

            Our bears are so smart that when he noticed that all he has to do is walk in front of the door and “Presto!” the door automatically opens for them …and oh, what wonderful smells are in there!

            Maybe Searles can camp out by the door for a while and do his “BAD BEAR!” bit to teach the little bugger this is a “no-no” until it learns the lesson.

          • Pedro October 7, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

            Sheesh, the police station is across the street. Can’t you make a call, then get your photos. Steve’s the only one that knows how to yell in town?
            Mammoth is schizophrenic.

  5. Suzie Q. Wacvet October 5, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    When did Vons start selling leaves?

    • Mongo The Idiot October 5, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

      Leaves are with the salad Suzie Q, they also carry some in the spices section.

  6. S.OwensRez October 5, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    I think we have all seen the Smokey the Bear forest fire image floating around the web, “Only you can prevent forest fires… No really, I’ve been furloughed.”

    Well now we know how Smokey is keeping fed while not receiving his Gov paycheck.

  7. Wayne Deja October 5, 2013 at 7:39 am #

    Bob K….Cal DFW, apologize, and praise them for what ?…..What they got now is a little problem bear walking into grocery stores after hours soon to grow into a big problem bear walking into grocery stores after hours….destined for death…If the Tahoe rescuers were allowed to come last year and capture this cub,a good chance he would now be safely up north in the wild and ready to den for the winter and not shoplifting apples from the produce section at Vons with his face all over the internet…

    • Try some deep breathing exercises October 5, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

      Wayne –
      This bear is just doing bear things. Hardly a “problem bear” you seem paranoid about.
      Our neighbors the bears are smarter and much more responsive than you might think.
      Everyone gets along fine here. No problem.
      Perhaps you are upset that the bear is a freeloading liberal who is getting something for nothing. LOL!

      • Benett Kessler October 5, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

        Wayne may be concerned about the fact that Fish and Wildlife met with Mammoth Police and talked about
        killing the bear. The Police Chief’s press release is a sobering reminder that we all need to be
        aware of the bears and other wildlife and do things to help them live.
        Benett Kessler

        • the answer to everything October 5, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

          Boys and their guns.
          Tsk Tsk.

        • Big Rick OBrien October 5, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

          I’m very hopeful that the bear cleans up his act and it doesn’t come down to a death sentence… but IF it does, the DFW had better do their own dirty work this time and not pawn off the job to Mammoth PD, like they did a few years back (when Sgt.Karen Smart had to put down a problem bear) because they were TOO busy to respond themselves.

      • Wayne Deja October 5, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

        Hardly a “problem bear”?…Seen going into houses…..walking into a market stealing apples….and like Benett said,F &W along with Mammoth Police talking killing the bear if the behavior keeps up….sounds like a problem to me…..especially for the bear….Is it common practice for your bears in Mammoth to break into houses,and go into markets late at night,and then for people to see it as funny and entertaining ? ..When people allow “bears to be bears”,as you suggest,it usually doesn’t end too well for the bears….

        • Chill, Wayne October 6, 2013 at 5:14 am #

          Wayne must not live in Mammoth.
          Here we live with and get along fine with our furry neighbors. We know what attracts them this time of year and take the proper steps to not tempt them.
          This is clearly an isolated incident.
          Please note: There has never been a mauling by a bear in the state of California. These are not grizzlies.
          Some people (who might feel more comfortable living in the city) are just a tad too quick wanting to exercise their itchy trigger-fingers nowadays and feel punitive about everything.

          • Wayne Deja October 6, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

            Chill…..Don’t live in Mammoth,but do know of incidents that didn’t end too well for the bear up there….or,for that fact,anywhere else once it gets around people,and grocery stores too much….Few years ago,had to put a bear down up at Whitney Portals when a bear got around the campgrounds and acted aggressive… remember Blondie up in Mammoth ?… about the idiot that shot and killed the bear that was in the Basin a few years ago….not to mention the ones that get hit and killed by vehicles when they get around neighborhoods and easy food….and,once again,will mention what was reported here on this story,about DFG and Mammoth Lakes Police getting together and discussing what might happen with this bear if it’s behavior keeps up….you can say all you want about how the “Mammoth people” know how to deal with these incidents……instead of trying to control them untill they go away….My bet is,if this bear pays another visit to Von’s late at night,within days,the bear will just disappear,never to be seen again..with the Mammoth people walking around asking “Wonder where the bear went?’…kinda like what happened to Blondie….with no one having an answer to the question….or wanting to tell….

          • Define "mauling" October 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

            California Black Bear Public Safety Incidents

            CDFW has recorded 12 “bear attacks” since 1980. In some cases, the details of these attacks were not completely known. According to the CDFW’s statewide public safety guidelines, a wild animal attack is defined as “physical contact, injury or death.” Each attack is summarized below.

            San Bernardino County, August 1993 – Two separate incidents occurred within three days of each other. In both cases, the bear — or bears — grabbed a child by the head and attempted to drag him away. In each incident, both victims were 13-year-old males and were sleeping on the ground in sleeping bags at the time of the attack. The bear also inflicted minor injuries on three other campers immediately prior to the attacks. The attacks occurred at two group campgrounds approximately two miles from each other and the attacks ended when other campers aggressively came to the victims’ aid. More than 100 people were sleeping on the ground in the immediate area at the time of the each attack. Both campgrounds were either clean or moderately clean. However, the area is interspersed with cabins and garbage is available nearby. Natural foods were available and abundant at the time of the attacks.


          • Ed Cesnalis October 6, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

            No maulings in California?

            How about Allena Hansen in the southern Sierra Nevada?


  8. Big Rick OBrien October 4, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

    It was the EXTREMELY mild winter that saved those bears. Unless the Fish & Game (as they were called back then) had a crystal ball that could predict the weather, they had nothing to do with the survival of those bear cubs, NADA !

    • Benett Kessler October 5, 2013 at 9:01 am #

      Also, we’re talking one bear cub. Don’t know about the other one.

    • BobK October 5, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

      They get their nurishment BEFORE winter arrives not during the winter unless they indeed needed their mother to live. You are all worried about how much DFG spends on stops and citations and you whine when they save money by not sending the cubs to a rescue center and let them live on their own in the wild. DFG didn’t cause the bear problems in Mammoth, though The lack of a hunting season sure has contributed to it

  9. BobK October 4, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    If the 2 cubs whose mother was killed by a car last year are indeed still alive, I think that there are a lot of people on this site that need to call DFW and apologize to the biologist and other personel that you badmouthed and called incompetent for not capturing the cubs. Maybe the professionals, and I’m not talking about Searles, know a lot more than you give them credit for.

  10. Mammoth local October 4, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    I wonder why it took so long for our PHD bears to figure out that we have closed off the dumpsters thus removing their food source and that the grocery store has a better selection of fresh food like tasty apples.

    All kidding aside all Vons needs to do is turn off the doors after hours. A bear is unlikely to enter during normal times as people are present.

    • Pedro October 4, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

      Vons is experienced in lockouts.

  11. John Barton October 4, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Mammoth PD has an all points bulletin out for a shop-lifter on the loose.

  12. sugar magnolia October 4, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    Actually I think Steve is doing a good job of education the bears and of course, probably more importantly, the people!

  13. Trouble October 4, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    I like this bear. I think he should run for city council.

  14. Wayne Deja October 4, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Still don’t understand why they don’t attempt to relocate this little bear…like they do in just about every other area in the United States of America that happens to have this type of problem with bears that seem to only get worse as time goes on…and before LE and other “authorities” get together and decide to kill it …..and PLEASE don’t come on with the 25 or 40 mile area that the bears continue to go back to and continue with the behavior …if they don’t want to….or can’t afford to relocate the bear up there in Mammoth,I believe Lake Tahoe has a program they offered before, with the apparent same cub, when it’s mother was killed….

  15. Mongo The Idiot October 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    Did he use Vons CUB?

  16. Dingo October 4, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    Wow, Steve is doing a great job teaching these bears!

    • Pedro October 5, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

      Teach him to be a union contract negotiator and Vons will run him out of town for good.


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