By Joseph Robertia
Like many homesteaders, Martha and Dennis Ogren believe in spending time in late fall and early winter putting up food for the rest of the year, to enjoy themselves and to share with guests.
But the spicy-sweet scent of a simmering batch of apple butter brought in an unwelcome visitor earlier this month — a black bear climbing the Ogrens’ roof in search of food.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in more than 60 years of living here,” Martha said. “And I haven’t seen a bear all summer.”
A black bear she estimated to be 1 to 2 years old showed up the evening of Nov. 13 at the Ogrens’ two-story home about 10 miles north of Ninilchik,
“I had 5 gallons of apple butter to make and had been making it all day. It takes about an hour a batch and you have to constantly stir it,” she said. “It was about 9:30 at night when I heard a noise outside.”
Martha called to her husband to check it out, because she didn’t want to leave the apple butter unattended. To
their surprise, Dennis determined it was a black bear peering in through a window.
“All the doors and windows were closed due to the cold, but it must have still been able to smell it,” Martha said.
They hoped that once the bear was aware of the humans’ presence it would flee, but that was not the case.
“It was determined to get in,” Martha said. “My husband watched it while I continued to stir the apple butter and it went door to door and window to window. He opened a shade and was nose to nose with it and it still didn’t go away. It was like it didn’t know it was supposed to be sleeping and afraid of people.”
Scratching and pawing, the bear caused damage to trim around the house’s entryways and windows for more than a half an hour, but it wasn’t until the bear attempted to breech the home through the second story that the Ogrens took action.
“My husband has a ladder tied in place so he can work on HAM radios antennas we have on the roof. The bear ran
right up that like it was nothing and began trying to get in a window in the loft,” she said. “He wasn’t going to give up.”
At that point Martha said they considered calling the Alaska Department of Fish and Game or Alaska State Troopers, but living so far from the cities, they feared it would take too long for them to respond. Fearing for her safety, Martha called a nephew who lived nearby, and he came and shot the bear, “literally right off the roof,” she said.
While Martha said it was sad that the bear was shot, she found out the next day while telling the tale to a neighbor that the bruin had visited other homes before hers.
“After the fact I was talking to a neighbor who said the bear had been harassing her for two days. She was scared to leave the house,” she said. “It was just one of those things, I guess. You’re always on the lookout for bears, but you never expect to see one like this. I was thankful I didn’t have any windows open.”