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Bear eats winning gingerbread house in Tahoe City

By Kara Fox
Sierra Sun,

December 25, 2006

Gingerbread cake

This is all that is left of Helen and Sarah Beltran's gingerbread house, after a bear broke into Granlibakken and ate two walls, the roof and some candies of the winning creation. The gingerbread house won first place in a Granlibakken employee contest.
Keith Sheffield/Sierra Sun

A Tahoe bear must have approved of the decision to award Helen Beltran's gingerbread house first place, because Thursday night it ate the sweet creation.

Beltran, head housekeeper at Granlibakken in Tahoe City, had spent four hours working on the gingerbread house with her eight-year-old daughter, Sarah. Their efforts paid off after winning an employee contest for best house, taking home $75 and bragging rights.

But when Beltran arrived to work Friday morning, she discovered a mess.

“When I came in, I saw bear paw prints on the table and fridge. Somehow he opened the fridge door and ate it,” the South Lake Tahoe resident said. “He left two pieces — a back wall and side wall and an edible picture of my daughter and just some candies.

“He was a smart bear.”

What's weird, Beltran said, is that her daughter had told her to tell people not to eat her edible sugar photo, which was part of the gingerbread house. And although the bear enjoyed frosting, peppermints and cookies, he left the photo behind.

“She said it's not fair and that she wanted the house,” Beltran said of her daughter's reaction. “I needed a tray to carry it back home. That's why I left it. My daughter and nephews were waiting for the house. They were going to eat it, but the bear got to it first.”

Granlibakken Resort Manager Kay Williams said the bear found its way through an unlocked door, but didn't do much damage.
“He went into housekeeping and ate it,” Williams said. “It was the only one that was eaten. He went right to the fridge. We did have a sign that said ‘Gingerbread Houses Here.' ”

Marynell Hartnett, president of the Granlibakken property owners board of directors, saw the suspect bear Friday morning, but said this is the first time she has seen a bear in the winter.

“Footprints were seen at my neighbor's house,” said Hartnett, who has lived on the property since 1985. “I was standing at the reception desk and he just came strolling down the cement pathway. He went back down the stairs and climbed a tree. He could still be out prowling with a sugar high.”

Hartnett said the bear was brown and “really big” with a furry, thick coat. Beltran suspects the bear will be back since he got a taste of the sweets.

“Right now, he knows we have food in there and he will come back,” Beltran said.

Williams noted that the resort had a bear problem in the past, but that employees have taken steps to discourage bears from breaking in. However, they know which doors are kept unlocked and they still get in occasionally, Williams said.

Although bears should be in hibernation right now, some will stay awake if they can find food, according to Ann Bryant of the BEAR League.

“Every winter, we have at least one bear that won't sleep,” Bryant said. “As long as they are still finding food, they're up.”
Tips for bear-proof homes
- Keep all garbage in bear-proof containers if put outside
- Make birdfeeders inaccessible to bears or take them down
- Do not leave accessible windows or doors open. Screens are not bear-proof.
- Be sure doors are solid wood or metal and install heavy deadbolts. Bears know how to turn door knobs.
- Spray Pinesol on window and door casings to mask food odors from inside. Repeat often.
- If the house is not permanently occupied, it is recommended that all food be removed between visits or     rentals while the house is unoccupied. Bears can smell spices, teas and other food through the walls.
- Leave lights, radio or TV on when not at home to make it look like there is someone in the house.
- Securely block access to under-house crawl spaces.
- Don't leave food in cars. Roll up windows and lock doors.

For more information, visit . If a bear has broken into your home, contact the BEAR League at (530) 535-7297.

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