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'At least I'm okay': Bear breaks into work van in Red Lodge

Black bear in Charlton's work van
Posted at 3:51 PM, Jul 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-24 11:10:58-04

RED LODGE — It was anything but the average day at the office for Mark Charlton after he discovered a bear in the driver’s seat of his work van Friday morning in Red Lodge. That bear left its mark and taught Charlton an important lesson.

Wildlife from afar can be a thing of beauty—but sometimes, it can be too close for comfort.

“The first thing I heard was my car honking," said Charlton, the owner of Charlton Remodel and Restoration, on Saturday. "I heard something. Then I came out, and the bear popped out."

Mark Charlton
Mark Charlton

Charlton lives in Billings but was in Red Lodge Friday morning doing some work for a client when he encountered an unwelcome guest in his work van.

“I was nervous," Charlton said. "I went back inside."

Close-up of the bear in Charlton's van
Close-up of the bear in Charlton's van

Luckily, the homeowner came to assist.

“I called my homeowner and he came out and honked his (horn)," Charlton said. "(The bear) was in there for almost an hour.”

Eventually, the bear moved along, but not before finishing off a snack.

"(The bear) ate all of my lunch and everything," Charlton said.

Bear inside of Charlton's van in Red Lodge
Bear inside of Charlton's van in Red Lodge

It’s a story few can tell, but Charlton's isn't the first.

Last August, MTN News introduced you to Mike and Maria Pilati, who also had a black bear get trapped inside their car near Red Lodge. For almost eight hours, the bear wreaked havoc inside the vehicle but finally escaped after the Pilati’s opened the door with a stick.

"Every once in a while you'd hear a crunch. I thought it had a garbage can it was chomping on or something. But it was my car it was crunching up," Mike told MTN last August. “We called the sheriff’s department and said, 'There’s a bear breaking into our car.'"

Mike and Maria Pilati
Mike and Maria Pilati

But unlike the Pilati’s, who ended up with a totaled vehicle, Charlton’s van was somehow miraculously okay.

Charlton now knows the importance of rolling up his windows and locking his doors while in bear country.

"(My windows were rolled) all the way down. That's the reason why he crawled inside. We were close in town too, I didn’t expect that,” Charlton said. "Everything is fine now. At least I'm okay. Roll up the windows and maybe lock the door."