Piano-playing bear makes musical debut in Colorado home (video) | TahoeDailyTribune.com

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Piano-playing bear makes musical debut in Colorado home (video)

VAIL — A bear climbed through an open kitchen window in Vail last week, and while foraging for food also feasted on the arts.

The Vail woman returned home to find her home had been broken into. She suspected a burglary and called the Vail Police Department.

Police showed up moments later to investigate, and the responding officer looked around and figured that their burglar was not a human burglar, but a bear. The bear did minor damage to the apartment and took food from a freezer.

That’s about the time the woman checked her security camera system, which captured the whole thing on video. On the video, the bear was seen wandering around the apartment and at one point went to a piano, putting its paws on the keys and playing a few notes.

“The chords captured on video were unbearable and the tune was equally grizzly,” Vail police said in a statement.

Officers searched the area, but the suspect is still at large.

What a difference a century makes

The National Park Service used to attract bears to tourists, and even set up bleachers to make bear watching more comfortable.

According to Rachel Mazur’s book “Speaking of Bears,” bear-feeding spectacles were major attractions in the early 20th century.

It started in Sequoia National Park, where managers noticed that bears foraged nightly at a garbage dump inside the park. Rangers knew a tourist attraction when they saw one, so they moved the trash pit to a more central location and called it Bear Hill.

They built bleachers so visitors could watch as many as 30 bears feed each evening, separated by only a short barrier.

“There were a lot of injuries during those years, but it was before society became litigious,” Mazur wrote.

Be bear aware

Wildlife was in the Vail area before humans, of course, so encounters are not new. However, local regulations about how residents handle their garbage makes these sorts of interactions much less common. The key is training humans to bear-proof their homes, said Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Among the suggestions:

• Store garbage cans inside or firmly secure bear-proof containers.

• Don’t leave pet food outside to attract hungry bears.

• Be careful about barbecues and bird feeders.

“Black bears are curious, smart and very adaptable. They’re not fussy and will eat just about anything with calories,” the CPW said on its website.

Bears, it turns out, are much like us.

“Bears want to get the most energy they can with the least amount of effort,” CPW said.

Bears that get too comfortable around people can destroy property or threaten human safety. There have been no violent encounters in Vail in recent years, Vail police said.

CPW has a two-strike policy. The first time a bear is captured for trash foraging, or any one of a number of other human-bear conflicts, it’s relocated. After a second offense, it’s killed.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.