Skip to comments.Cabin owner fed bruins for years despite state's pleas
Posted on 08/10/2009 3:16:47 AM PDT by Daffynition
In the evenings, Donna Munson liked to sit in front of her picture window and watch the bears amble toward her Ouray County log cabin for dinner.
The 74-year-old woman who stocked her backyard with dog food, fruit and yogurt was found dead outside her home Friday, being eaten by a bear.
It was still unknown Saturday whether a bear killed Munson or whether one or more animals consumed part of her body after her death. But people who knew her said she was an eccentric wildlife lover who had been feeding bears, elk, skunks and raccoons for years.
Munson, who rented half of her home in southwestern Colorado to several people over the years, told one of them that "when the time came, she wanted to go out with the bears."
"She was a very sweet lady," said Tammy York of Paonia, who rented part of Munson's house several years ago. "She just loved nature. She probably shouldn't have been alone out there in her state."
Colorado Division of Wildlife agents had asked Munson so many times over the past decade to stop feeding bears that she quit taking their phone calls or accepting their certified letters and tried to ban them from her property.
Neighbors complained about a growing number of bears in the hills, ransacking trash cans and even trying to break into houses this summer. Still, Munson kept feeding the bears.
Two of the bruins were shot and killed by Ouray County sheriff's deputies Friday while they investigated Munson's death. Deputies said the animals were threatening and had no fear of people.
Two other bears were captured and euthanized in July after a caretaker at Munson's cabin complained they were too aggressive. Division of Wildlife authorities caught them both the first day they set traps.
"We tried to do everything possible to gain her cooperation," said Tyler Baskfield, DOW spokesman. "Obviously, this is a situation that everybody feels bad about, but it illustrates what can happen."
Bears fed by humans lose their instinct to fear people and "they expect that food source to continue," he said.
"Not only are you putting yourself at risk, you're putting anyone else who may come in contact with that animal at risk because they are expecting a handout," Baskfield said.
The night before her death, Munson planned to feed an injured baby bear hard-boiled eggs and yogurt, another former tenant said. And she had planned to swat a large bear that was bothering the baby bear with a broom.
"She didn't have a chance in hell," said Connie Barnes, who lived with Munson for five years and never went outside after dark without a spotlight, her husband and his BB gun.
Munson lived in the cabin, which bordered federal land, with her husband, "Ridgway Jack," until his death about 14 years ago, Barnes said. Jack Munson adopted a baby elk and made their home into an animal sanctuary, even letting a fawn sleep in his bed, Barnes said.
Donna Munson continued caring for animals after her husband's death, leaving a tub of cat food on her picnic table for critters and tossing food in the backyard and out her windows for bears. The elderly woman, who used a walker, bought giant bags of Ol' Roy dog food for the bears and had pallets of grain delivered for elk and deer, Barnes said.
"She had skunks that came in her house," Barnes said. "It sounds ridiculous to people, but you had to know her. She was a very loving woman, so much into animals."
Two women who cleaned Munson's home found her being eaten by a bear Friday, Barnes said.
A necropsy performed on a 250-pound male bear was inconclusive. A necropsy on the other bear killed Friday is ongoing. The Montrose County coroner is performing an autopsy on Munson.
Folks in Ouray and Ridgway, two towns near Munson's house, were upset about the bear deaths and the public safety risk caused by Munson.
"These bears are now not going to be fed and they are going to go to other houses looking for food," said Kate Singer, owner of Kate's Place, a cafe in downtown Ridgway. "More bears are going to be killed because of what this woman did. It's a bad situation, and people are not happy about it."
Munson had enclosed her porch with wire fencing for protection. York, her former tenant, said Munson had the fence installed when York and her two children, ages 1 and 4 at the time, moved in with her.
The bears would come within 6 feet of the porch and peer in the windows.
"We were in the zoo," she recalled, saying she moved out after about a year because the animals especially the skunks "got to be too much." While she lived there, a bear busted York's car window and left bite marks in her seat trying to get some leftover french fries.
Munson would be devastated by the bears' deaths, York said.
"That's the worst part," she said. "That would be horrible for her if she knew what her death had meant to the bears."
Why? She was happy doing what she was doing and living where she was. I wouldn't choose it, but she obviously did. I bet she would have been terribly upset, lonely, and bereft if she had been forced to live in a "home" somewhere "for her own good."
We all have to die sometime. She was happy up until her death.
I don’t disagree with your sentiments about her Jemian, however she has created a problem b/c now these bears that she has loved have become dependent on humans, not fearful of them. So her neighbors are going to have to deal with dangerous critters coming close for handouts. That’s the rub. ;)
Problem is, most of those bears now will need to be killed. You cant have dangerous wild animals running around with no fear of humans, and in the same instance, associating humans with food. She was a typical, stupid liberal.
Oh, she fed the bears alright.
Well one thing is for sure, she really got into feeding the bears.
When I was a kid in the 50’s growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Mighgan, a hard drinking, 5 foot 6”, 300 pound pulp wood cutter decided to fight a bear of about the same size that was standing in his yard. He got the first overhand right into the bear’s nose, the bear stood on his hind legs, and , according to Sox’s wife, beat him with his paws like he was prize fighter. The bear never did try to bite old Sox, just beat him senseless and left him lying on the ground with one arm broken, a shoulder dislocated and a few teeth missing (although they might have been gone before the fight as I remember what most of those folks up there looked like back then).
She'll put her eye out...
Bruins! We need BRUINS!!!
You all three make excellent points. I am all in favor of her having lived her life among the animals WITHOUT training the animals to get food from humans.
"get em Clyde"
I understand. I can confess that I am guilty too. I have, for years, fed the song birds ... and when I move, I wonder how they will adapt when I have spoiled them. Only diff is that they won’t attack and eat anyone .... or at least, I don’t think so! LOL
Here's another family [I can't find the link now] of the Anderson family who have a grizz named Brutus .... this is not photoshopped. I can only surmise how this will end.
I'd hate to inform Munson (guess I can't since she became a bear Happy Meal), but bears will eat anything, including other baby bears, deer, elk, whatever. Bears are Nature's cutest hunter killer.
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