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Bear pays inn late-night visit
STARTLED: Guests heard breaking glass, saw bruin in lounge.

By Marmian Grimes
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

(Published: September 23, 2002)
Fairbanks -- Barbara Claspill advertises "a view of the wilderness" to potential guests at her Stampede Road bed-and-breakfast.

The wilderness opened the door and walked inside early last Saturday.

A ringing telephone at 2:30 a.m. jarred Claspill awake in her upstairs bedroom of the Denali Touch of Wilderness Inn.

"The guest in Room 3 called me and said, 'You have a bear in the house,' " she said. "It was right outside her window." That would be a window into the lounge area, Claspill explained, not outside.

Guests in two of the downstairs rooms had been awakened by the sounds of thumps and glass breaking outside their bedroom doors.

The guest told Claspill that the bear finally settled down but was right outside her door.

"She looked out her window. She said, 'I think I made eye contact.' I think it scared the bear." Claspill quickly dressed and started down the stairs.

"Then I realize what I am doing," she said. "I don't even have a gun with me."

Her husband, Dan, had the gun. Ordinarily that would not have been a problem, she said, except he was sleeping in a trailer about 200 yards from the house because he hadn't been sleeping well with all the hustle and bustle of the bed-and-breakfast.

"I call my neighbor next door and I wake them up and say: 'I have a bear in the house. Could you come over? I can't get a hold of Dan,' " Claspill said.

Claspill said she thinks the bear got in by pushing against an unlocked lever handle on her door.

Neighbor Michael Owen arrived and spent a tense few minutes, going from room to room in the darkened house looking for the bear.

"(I) had flashlights on and just basically started going through the house trying to clear the thing," he said.

Meanwhile, Claspill's husband woke up out in the trailer to see armed people with flashlights moving around in his house. He grabbed his gun and flashlight and headed to the house.

"He yells in there ... 'come out and show yourself because I have a gun,' " Claspill said.

Owen yelled back: "It's Mike and Pat (from) next door. Don't shoot. There is a bear in the house."

"I said that very forcefully and clearly," he said.

Sometime before all of the commotion, the bear had apparently left through the same door it came in.

No one saw it clearly enough to say whether it was a grizzly or black bear or how old it appeared to be. But state Department of Fish and Game spokeswoman Cathie Harms said it sounds like something a young bear would do.

"Most of the time when a bear goes into structures or goes close to people, it is a young hooligan that has been kicked out by mom," she said. "They are highly curious animals."

While she can laugh about it now, Claspill said it was scary at the time. "I was afraid that maybe it would panic and not be able to get out."

Despite the drama, the bear caused relatively little damage, Claspill said, and nobody was injured.

"It knocked over our monitor, our printer, all of the plants," she said. "I have got a claw mark on my rug in there." Perhaps the worst damage was the slobber.

"I had this bear goopy stuff all over everything," she said.
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