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Bear spends night in Red Lodge couple's car

Bear spends night in couples vehicle
Posted at 5:59 PM, Aug 04, 2022

RED LODGE — It's not too rare to see a bear near Red Lodge, but it is uncommon for the bear to open the car door, climb in and spend the entire night inside.

“It was there from a little after eleven at night to almost seven in the morning," Red Lodge resident Mike Pilati said Thursday.

After eight hours in a car, any of us may get a little cranky. So it was no surprise that the bear was more than eager to get out of Mike and Maria Pilati's vehicle.

"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 said.

A black bear somehow ended up in the couple's car, had the door shut behind it and couldn't get out. The Pilatis first noticed the bear in their car when their car lights started flashing and the alarm went off. They had no idea that the bear was actually trapped in the car.

“We called the sheriff’s department. Said there’s a bear breaking into our car,” said Mike.

Shortly after getting off the phone with the Carbon County Sheriff's Office, the couple received a call from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. FWP said they'd check it out in the morning, with no one knowing at the time that the bear was stuck.

After a restless night's sleep and waking up to a bear still in the car, Mike decided to take matters into his own hands. He carefully opened the car door with a stick while staying a safe distance away.

“I reached through that side door there and reached out and popped the door of the car and the bear come roaring out of there,” he said.

It turns out the bear's two cubs were close by, hanging out in a tree. Once the mama bear was let out of the car, the trio took off.

Not before leaving behind a huge mess.

“We are so surprised. Very surprised that the car is totally wrecked. I can’t believe it's totaled,” Maria said.

A shattered windshield, destroyed roof and passenger door and chewed-up dashboard are among the damage.

But the couple's first thought when they opened their now totaled vehicle was not about the destruction. They were hit with something else.

"The odor," Maria said.

"Bears are stinky creatures," said Mike.

The Pilatis are adamant they didn't have any food in their vehicle and believe the bear was used to opening cars looking for food and just got lucky when it stumbled upon their unlocked door.

A surprise guest that left a lot of damage, but this couple was still able to laugh about it in the end.

"Now we call it a Su-bear-ru," Maria said as the couple laughed.