As Sean McQuillan lay sleeping next to his wife around 3 a.m., two pugs dozing at the end of the bed, his phone started to buzz with call after call. A trio of RCMP cruisers soon pulled up in front of the family home in Coquitlam, B.C. Pajama-clad neighbours stood groggy but wide-eyed at their windows, filming the reason for it all.
Two gangly black bears were rummaging through the McQuillan’s grey Chevy Tahoe, which was parked in their driveway. The driver’s side and rear passenger doors were flung open as the animals worked under the streetlight.
McQuillan, his wife, their two young children and both dogs missed the entire thing.
“They sleep blissfully through this entire ordeal, as [did] we,” McQuillan said, referring to pugs Winston and Hannah.
Bears likely in search of food
McQuillan detailed the story on Twitter early Friday.
He and RCMP believe the two bears got into his unlocked car in search of food — particularly, McQuillan suspects, the scraps his two-and-a-half-year-old son, Maverick, had chucked all over the back seat.
No one was hurt, but the animals left behind dusty paw prints, a mangled carseat and the lingering odour of bear — which McQuillan described as being “like much thicker wet-dog smell.”
Neighbours who heard the commotion tried repeatedly to reach the family by phone and through a neighbourhood WhatsApp group. One witness saw the garage door was also wide open and called police.
WATCH | Surveillance footage captured the bears wandering the cul-de-sac:
By the time RCMP arrived, the bears had gone. Officers knocked on the front door and joined the list of people trying to phone the family. Still, the entire household slept through the night.
“We wake up in the morning to find all of these messages saying, ‘What happened? What’s going on?’ We’re like, ‘Uh, I don’t know what’s going on,’ ” McQuillan said.
One neighbour started sending footage from their security camera to fill in the blanks.
“There’s three or four police officers [in the video] driving up the cul-de-sac and they’re all in front of our house,” McQuillan said.
“Eventually you see this weird figure on the back of our vehicle and the figure gets on all four paws. And that’s where we realized it was just a very skinny juvenile bear.”
Bear break-ins rare, but not impossible
McQuillan saw the damage for himself when he went down to the garage.
“Our car is all torn apart on the inside … there’s garbage from inside the garage pulled and strewn everywhere,” he said.
“They absolutely used the handle,” he said, referring to how the bears got into the SUV. “You can see a paw print on the corner of the driver’s side door.”
Unable to reach the family, RCMP officers secured the garage and vehicle — catching an unlucky whiff of the “distinct wild animal bouquet”— before leaving the scene.
Bears have gotten into cars in B.C. before, including as recently as last year, but RCMP said it’s rare to see two of the animals doing so at once.
“This is a very uncommon call,” said RCMP officer Const. John Graham.
Officers reiterated the importance of locking up vehicles to protect them from thieves — human or otherwise.
“The Coquitlam RCMP would like to encourage bears, and people, to not enter, or drive for that matter, any vehicle without the permission of the registered owner,” Graham said.
As for the family, McQuillan said he has some explaining to do with his insurer, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.
“Now to see if ICBC covers bear,” he tweeted.