Looking for a comfy place to hunker down for the winter is the prime goal for many creatures as the temperatures start to dip. For one black bear on the East Coast, the perfect spot emerged in Connecticut—under Vinny Dashukewich's deck. The Plainville man tells the New York Times that he and his girlfriend were playing with his pit bull, Cali, in his backyard on Dec. 30 when Cali started growling near the raised deck. Dashukewich was stunned by what he found underneath when he peered in: "a large black bear ... fat and groggy ... nestled in a crawl space, stretched out on a bed of leaves and a tarp," per the Times.
"He was totally unfazed," Dashukewich tells the paper. "As soon as we saw each other he didn't move, he didn't react." That's because the bear was in hibernation mode, leaving Dashukewich and his family with a dilemma on their hands on what to do about their surprise guest. Dashukewich's sister Tyler says they contacted the state's Department of Energy & Environment Protection for advice, and the agency gave them two choices: They could try to scare the bear off, or they could simply let him be for a few months, until warmer weather arrived. The family quickly made its decision.
"He hasn't bothered us at all," Tyler Dashukewich says. "So we feel like there's no reason to move him." Her brother agrees, telling Gray News: "He's massive, yeah, but he's super chill." Now, the bear—which the family named Marty Bearnard—has become an internet sensation, thanks to the TikTok and Instagram accounts they've set up for him. The latter account's bio reads: "Currently I am hibernating until i'm ready for hot bear summer." DEEP wildlife biologist Jason Hawley says that the agency gets about 15 to 20 calls each year of bears getting cozy under residents' decks and porches, and he says it's OK if people just let the bears be—they'll usually vacate by early April.
Hawley does, however, encourage residents to call DEEP if they discover a bear on their property, as there are certain bears that the department may be looking for, and to not disturb the bear. "The most important thing is to just leave it alone," he tells Gray News. "So [don't] go over and continuously be looking underneath, stay out of the area, and keep your dogs and kids away." Vinny Dashukewich—who tells FOX 61 that, looking back on his dog's reactions, the bear was probably there for a week or two before they noticed it—concedes that his parents, whom he and his sister share their home with, are "a little worried," but that they're just going to keep a relative distance and let the bear ride it out. "Think of it as a five-month-long nap," he tells Gray News. (Read more bears stories.)