Unbearable damage: Gord Woolsey stands with the SUV that was destroyed by a bear that opened the door and was then trapped inside the vehicle on June 23. OPP report the bear entered 10 vehicles in the Drag Lake area over the previous nights. /Submitted photos

Car-opening bear wreaks havoc at Drag Lake

By Sue Tiffin

Published June 30 2020

Gord Woolsey and Joan Michie were just settling into an early night’s rest at Woolsey’s Drag Lake cottage on June 23 when just after 9 p.m. they heard a car horn honk.
“We didn’t think anything of it there are cottages close by” said Michie. “We thought maybe it was a neighbour. And then we heard the second horn and I thought that doesn’t sound right.”
Woolsey and Michie headed to the closed-in porch looked out into the night and heard their own car horn while the car’s headlights were glowing.

Michie said several possibilities crossed her mind at the time she heard the sound of cars along their road including raccoons or perhaps a short in the car’s electrical system or a neighbour arriving and hitting their car alarm by mistake.
“But when I looked out and saw the lights on and then of course Gord immediately grabbed a flashlight and looked out and then it was the noise that alarmed us” she said. “We knew something was big and we could hear this movement in the car and then the ripping and tearing started. We could hear it and it was shifting. I panicked I’m going to be really honest I was scared.”

Woolsey and Michie went back into the cottage from the closed-in porch which was just 10 feet from the car and could hear through an open window in the kitchen a menagerie of sounds coming from the car: rattling around tearing apart ripping.
“And then it came to our minds” said Michie. “When Gord finally shone the light in I could see the bear’s head in the front seat  by the mirror.”
Police say several vehicles were damaged after a bear that developed the ability to open car doors broke into more than 10 of them. Officers from the Haliburton Highlands OPP were called on June 23 at about 10 p.m. about “car entries” in the Kennaway and Dudley Road area of Dysart et al according to an OPP press release issued June 24. One of those calls came from Woolsey. While Woolsey and Michie waited for the police to arrive they watched the trapped bear which had somehow locked the doors of the car upon entry as it panicked.
“We could hear wiring we could hear the ceiling in the car being ripped apart the door panels going from front to back” said Michie. “It would have been about half an hour in after the police were dispatched and then the dispatcher called back and said to Gord you know I have an idea a suggestion try your key fob. It’s a Honda SUV. So it has a back hatch a back window. So he did he hit the key fob and the bear got out.”
After the bear had left and the police had finished their report which included stopping in at several other residences with affected cars on the road Michie said the threat of danger past the pair had a good laugh. Their insurance rep laughed when they called noting she wasn’t sure how to report a car vandalized by a bear.
“It’s a strange story but it did happen” said Michie.

In the morning the damage to the car was extensive.
“The car at that point was totally torn apart inside” said Michie. “There is when we looked the next morning in the padded dash there is a claw or tooth mark the size of my baby finger. Where it was just scratching. The front mirror is gone. And fur the fur is still in there. And the smell you can always tell a bear smell and it was lingering the next day.”
Michie whose social media post informing others about the incident went viral with thousands of shares said it was important that others knew what had happened so they could be aware.
“There was nothing in it” said Michie. “I think it’s important there was absolutely nothing in that car to attract. We don’t leave anything in it. But it sure had quite a time destroying it.”
Police are requesting residents keep car doors locked and make certain there is nothing inside their vehicles that could be food for a hungry bear according to the OPP press release.
“Many of the vehicles entered by the bear were significantly damaged” reads the report.

Residents in the area reported a bear trap has been set in the area by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

If a bear poses an immediate threat to personal safety and exhibits threatening or aggressive behaviour you should call 911 or your local police said Maimoona Dinani MNRF spokesperson. “Not every bear sighting is an emergency situation. If you see a bear and it is not a threat you can report it to the Bear Wise reporting line at 1-866-514-2327. This line operates 24 hours a day seven days a week from April to November.”

with files from Jenn Watt