Vail woman fends off bear with pillow |

Vail woman fends off bear with pillow

Matt Zalaznick
Vail, CO Colorado
Sally Rebehn/Special to the Vail DailyThis mother bear was put down after it broken into a home in Vail on Sept. 18 and threatened residents. It was captured Friday in a trap set by the Division of Wildlife.

VAIL, Colorado – How do you get an angry bear out of your bedroom?

Hit it with a decorative pillow.

OK, a pillow is probably not on the list of official tips on fending off hungry predators, but it worked for Vail resident Sally Rebehn when a bear followed her into her bedroom a few weeks ago.

At first, she said, she thought it was her dog.

“I turned around and it was so odd, your brain takes a while to register,” said Rebehn, who lives with her son’s family in Intermountain. “No way I thought there would be bear in the bedroom. It’s kind of like when you think you’re about to drink a glass of water and it’s a glass of milk.

“I was so scared, I bet the people across the creek thought I was getting murdered.”

The bear approached her, hissing and making a funny bop-bop-bop sound, so she got between a bed and the wall. When the animal was about 12 feet away, she started screamed and the bear got up on its hind legs, she said.

“I grabbed a decorative pillow and threw it at her and she turned around and left,” she said.

The bear fled into an empty bedroom nearby and Rebehn said she closed the door. She peeked through and alerted her son, Brian Hoyt, who thought the bear was a small one he could capture in a bath towel.

But the bear also charged Hoyt, who ran up the stairs to call the police, Rebehn said.

The bear then went into a kitchen and rummaged through the garbage, cupboards and drawers. The bear tasting some chili and some ice cream but seemed to prefer chicken wings from a local barbecue restaurant, Rebehn said.

“The only thing we know that it ate every last bit of was Moe’s Barbecue,” she said.

Police chased the bear and her cubs away but the animals returned two night later, and then two nights after that, ripping up screens to try to get into the house. That’s when the Division of Wildlife set a trap outside the home.

The mama bear was caught early Friday morning. Wildlife officers also captured three cubs, who had climbed high into a tree and had to be tranquilized. One cub fell into a trap held by wildlife officers while another had to be retrieved from a branch onto which it had fallen.

The mother bear and a cub, because they had entered home and threatened residents, were put down. The two cubs, because they seemed to be afraid of humans, were relocated, said Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Wildlife officers found nothing specific that would have attracted the bears to Rebehn’s house, Hampton said.

The problem is that the bears associate homes with food, he said.

“Once bears learn they can get food in homes, there’s not a lot you can do to keep them from getting into homes,” Hampton said. “We have bears that have learned to open cars doors and sliding glass doors. Even when they come across a door that might be locked, they’re large, powerful animals. It’s not much of an inconvenience to them.”

People are sometimes reluctant to call the Division of Wildlife because they think the agency will kill bears, but the agency wants residents to call before bears get into homes and threaten people, he said.

The agency wants to educate homeowners about attracting bears and relocate bears that have wandered into neighborhoods before putting animals down, Hampton said.

“If the bear is hanging around the house, getting into the trash, doing things early in the education process for a bear, that’s when we need to know,” he said.

The agency doesn’t have a lot options but to kill animals once they’ve gotten into homes and acted aggressively, he said.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at (970)748-2926 or

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