SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Blaring Horn Announcing Dining Bears Inspires Song


October 18, 2007

Ketchikan, Alaska - There's been no shortage of bear stories in Ketchikan this year. Bears in garbage. Bears in cars. Bears in houses. But has any bear incident inspired a performance of hospital operating room personnel singing, a cappella, something akin to "Happy Wandering Bears Dine on Stinky Diapers"?

jpg dining bear

Look who's coming to dinner... A young bear visits the Burman's neighbors.
Photo courtesy Lori and Guy Burman

This is one man's story....

Dr. Guy Burman, his wife Lori, and kids Sarah (8) and Brooke (17 months) settled into a house at Herring Cove in June 2007. Both Guy and Lori first arrived separately in Ketchikan years earlier, in 1993, on summer excursions. Guy was taking a break and making some money in the fishing industry before settling in on a long seven-year track to become a surgeon. Lori was stopping in Ketchikan before setting off on world travels. They met at the youth hostel when they first arrived that summer.

Guy eventually went back to school. Ketchikan won Lori's heart over world travels and she stayed here. They stayed in touch. They really stayed in touch and were married in Ketchikan in 1998. They lived in several different places across the country, settled in New York and started putting down roots there. And then got word of an opening for a surgeon at Southeast Surgical Clinic in Ketchikan. In June of this year the Burmans returned to Ketchikan.

Aware that they shared their new Herring Cove neighborhood with a population of black bears, the Burmans were careful about how they handled their garbage. Rather than risk leaving garbage cans accessible, Guy loaded up the family's van with trash one night in August in preparation to take it to the dump himself the next day.

You can probably guess what happened next.

jpg Herring Cove Bear

A neighbor bear taking a dip in Herring Cove waters.
Photo courtesy Lori and Guy Burman

Guy awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of a car horn blaring. He got out of bed, Lori and kids still asleep, and went to investigate. Here is his description of what he found, an excerpt from an account he wrote to family and friends:

"Stealthily I crept from my warm comforter, stepped over the snoring dog and padded down the stairs. As I stepped onto the porch and peered around the side of the house, I noticed the cars were parked where I left them, but the windows on the van were fully steamed up. Still in a mild state of somnambulance, I searched my memory for where I'd left my shotgun to roust out the teenager obviously taking advantage of my teenage daughter. Realizing I neither owned a shotgun nor did I have a teenage daughter, I went back in the house and woke the dog.
"He looked a bit befuddled at my attaching his leash at this time of the morning, but as soon as we stepped outside he took on his standard 'I smell a bear" porcupine hairdo. Straining at the leash, he gave a great bark. It was then I noticed the bear standing on the driver's seat, his rump on the horn and (I'm pretty sure) a smile on his face."

jpg Cooper, the Mighty Bear Dog

Sarah and Brooke Burman, accompanied by Cooper, the Mighty Bear Dog.
Photo courtesy Lori and Guy Burman

There were, in fact, two bears dining happily in the van. The first one took off into the woods as soon as Cooper, the dog, announced his presence. Uncertain as to who else remained in the dark van, Guy and Cooper approached the van from the side with the doors closed. Guy writes:

"Cautiously, with my trusty hound leading the way, while I yelled and stomped my feet and made all the racket a scantily clothed, barefooted, sleep-deprived man has any right to make at 4:30 in the morning, I cracked open the closed door on my side of the car. This was the final straw for the second bear, who obviously was loath to give up his delicacies before he, too, took off, with Cooper hot on his heels."

With the bears gone, Guy faced what they left behind. Rotting remnants of crab, chicken, fruits, organically grown vegetables. And diapers. Really nasty, stinky dirty diapers.

"It was awful - it was AWFUL!" Lori recalls. "It was completely foul. I can't even explain it!"

Lori took photos of the van to document the event, but she apologizes for their quality, since she was holding the camera with one hand at arm's length while holding her nose with the other.

jpg Aftermath of bears' fine dining

The aftermath of the bears' fine dining.
Photo by Lori Burman

Guy dressed head to toe in a full suit of raingear the next day for the drive to the dump. ("The thought did cross my mind of just leaving the entire vehicle.")

Faced with the prospect of trying to get the van cleaned out, the Burmans turned to Paul Bermudez, of Hummingbird Services, who agreed to give it a try.

"I was definitely in a state of shock when I saw it," Paul said.

While Guy describes the clean-up as "detailing" the van, Paul said "detailing doesn't exactly describe it. I'd have to say it was extreme cleaning!"

He kept the van for five days, including a three-day ozone treatment. He took out everything that wasn't bolted down, shampooed and wiped down everything.

The result?

"There's still a little bit of an... aroma," said Lori.

But they are forever indebted to Paul's stubborn determination to clean that van.

Meanwhile, as stories are wont to do in Ketchikan, this one started making the rounds. At work one day, Guy was summoned unexpectedly to a meeting, but discovered a surprise gathering of operating room personnel awaiting his arrival. They presented him with a stuffed bear dressed in a diaper and a car freshener tucked in the diaper. And then they launched into song:

Burman Bears Song

(Sung to the tune of "The Happy Wanderer')

The bears in Herring Cove are bold,
They wander where they please.
They're found in local households where
They've entered without keys.

Sometimes when they're 'apillaging
The booty's really ripe.
They break into spontaneous song
Amidst the raucous hype

We're the bears, we don't lose
Roam the cove, eating anything we choose
Gorge on trash, night to moon
Hibernation's coming soon!

The Burmans moved to Herring Cove
Naive to the bear gang.
They stored their trash inside their van
that night the bruins sang.

The bears they had a festival
Licked cans and slurped yogurt.
The diapers were delectable
They had them for dessert.

So if you smell in Herring Cove
An odor you can't stand
It could be rotting humpies... or
The Burman's trashed-out van.

They're the bears, they don't lose
Roam the cove, eating anything they choose
Gorge on trash, night to noon
Hibernation's coming soon!

Since the original break-in, the Burmans have regularly found paw prints on the door handles of their vehicles, and bears got inside twice more, but did little or no damage.

Of the last break-in, young Sarah is philosophical, yet succinctly descriptive: "At least it wasn't so -- " and here she finishes her sentence by grimacing and fanning her fingers in front of her nose.


Heidi Ekstrand lives and works in Ketchikan.

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