bear crawls out from under North Carolina home
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Watch: Black Bear Crawls Out of Vent After Hibernating Inside North Carolina Home

The homeowners had no idea a bear was living beneath them.

Picture what a bear's winter den looks like. Most of us see a nice cave or burrow in the ground, or maybe even a pile of well-concealed brush or under a fallen tree. While those are all possibilities, one North Carolina black bear opted for a rather unique option: a heating vent underneath a home.

A video captured in 2021 was shared recently by North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission on its X account. It showed a black bear wriggling itself out of a very tight crawl space, with a hole that looked just big enough for its head. The agency believed the bear had been hibernating there due to the vent's proximity to warmth, a resourceful move.

Many viewers wondered how the bear got itself in there, since it definitely was having a hard time squeezing itself back out. Others were more concerned at the prospect of having an apex predator sleeping beneath them. While the situation may be alarming, biologists with the agency say it's best to leave bears alone and avoid areas they hibernate until they leave in the spring. Much to many homeowners' chagrin, this is something that is happening more and more.

Bears are incredibly resourceful when it comes to finding a winter home. They will pick any location that seems like a safe place to den and give birth to cubs.

"We have experienced an uptick in bears denning under houses and decks over the last 10 years, as well as unleashed dogs disturbing bears in dens," said Colleen Olfenbuttel, the NCWRC's bear expert, in an agency press release. "Homeowners can safely coexist with the bears until they leave the den in the spring. This is because a denning bear is only interested in getting their winter rest or, if it's a female, caring for her cubs. Denning bears are not interested in engaging with people as long as people leave bear dens alone. Disturbances by humans or their pets may cause the bear to leave permanently and orphan her cubs."

The agency fields reports of less-than-ideal bear dens from November on. Most of the time, homeowners have no idea a bear is present until spring, when they typically retrieve deck furniture or other items from storage.

One homeowner found a female bear with her new cubs under her deck.

"The bear seems to have given birth in early January, when the homeowners were alerted to the sound of cubs crying under their deck," said Ashley Hobbs, the NCWRC's statewide BearWise coordinator. "After speaking with the homeowners and inspecting the den site, we recommended the best course of action was to limit disturbance around the deck area until the bear emerges with her cubs in the spring. This will avoid disturbing the female and potentially orphaning the cubs."

So, while it may not seem ideal to have a young bear family living under your deck, it's best for everyone to leave them alone until they are ready to move on. Just keep any pets and children away from the area until then. Mother bears can be very protective of their young.

The agency says that if cubs become orphaned, they will be captured and taken to a rehabilitation facility until they can be returned to the wild.

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