It happened back in October when the animal opened an unlocked door on Hamilton's Toyota Sequoia, which was parked outside his cabin near Waterton Lakes National Park, and climbed inside.
Nobody knows for sure how it became trapped but the winds are typically strong in that part of southern Alberta and the prevailing theory is that a gust blew the door shut.
Experts suspect the bear was only in the vehicle for a few minutes before finally crashing through the rear window to freedom. But in that time it did $60,000 worth of damage and the SUV was a complete write-off. (see photos of the damage below)
Pictures of the vehicular mauling have been posted and re-posted on websites and blogs around the world for months, but the Calgary businessman and avid outdoorsman has been reluctant to speak publicly about them until now.
"I didn't want people to portray it as an aggressive bear or a mean bear or a dangerous bear," Hamilton explained about why he wanted to keep the incident quiet at the time.
"I'm kind of pro-bear."
Hamilton said he and his wife frequently go to the cabin for the weekend, but he noticed something wrong when he was getting ready to make the drive back to Calgary on that Monday morning.
It was still dark, and he could see a mess in the SUV's back seat as he approached. At first he thought his wife had put garbage there to be taken back to the city, but then he saw the smashed back window.
Bears — usually black bears — are common in the area but Hamilton said his neighbours had been seeing a young grizzly in the area. They guessed it was about two years old and had recently been given the boot by its mother.
At first, Hamilton thought the bear had gone in through the back window, but he realized that was unlikely. Then he noticed his garage door was open and the light was on. He called his neighbour with a rifle in case the bear was still nearby.
"It had never been in the garage," he recalled. "It turned out that the bear had either bit or stepped on the garage door opener when it was in our vehicle."
Realizing then that the bruin was long gone, Hamilton finally had time to take an inventory of the damage.
"It panicked and went crazy and deployed most of the airbags and ripped out the seats, and the dashboard and even bent the steering column," he said.
Oh, and one other thing — Hamilton may not be able to answer the age-old question about whether a bear poops in the woods, but he knows for sure they'll do it in an SUV.
Hamilton said he could tell by the prints in the dust on his SUV that the animal hadn't forced his way inside. He said it appeared it had simply been leaning against the vehicle, pressing its snout against the windows, and that its paw slid down the side and hooked a door handle.
"It was clearly a misadventure on the bear's part. I mean, there's not even a scratch on the door outside," Hamilton said.
"Absolutely no one was hurt and the bear got the biggest start of all."
An expert from the University of Calgary examined teeth and claw marks in the SUV and believed it was indeed a grizzly, Hamilton said. He said there was just a tiny speck of blood on one of the airbags, so he doesn't believe the bear was hurt.
On some blogs that display pictures of his SUV, the story has grown. Hamilton said he saw one that suggested he was inside the vehicle at the time. Others claim the vehicle is on display for promotional purposes, which he said isn't true.
Hamilton can't say for certain how pictures of the damage got on the Internet. He said he and his wife took some photos, neighbours took some others, and that a few were likely snapped at a dealership in Calgary where the vehicle ended up.
He said his insurance company, coincidentally, is the same one that has a TV commercial about a bear that destroys a vehicle. Needless to say, they didn't give him any trouble when he filed his claim.
Hamilton said one of his neighbours asked wildlife officials if they planned to trap the animal.
"They kind of smiled and said this poor bear will never go around another vehicle or cottage as long as he lives," Hamilton said. "He's probably still running as we speak."
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