GEORGETOWN LAKE - Most bears are of simple tastes. Others, apparently, crave a bit more style and luxury.
One black bear at Georgetown Lake is hibernating this winter in a den that would make Martha Stewart proud.
Somehow fitting into a small crawlspace, the 200-pound animal is making its home beneath a family cabin at the lake's north end.
And what are new digs without the right décor? The bear also managed its way inside by an access hatch in the cabin floor and "borrowed" a selection of decorative pillows, comforters and blankets to keep warm.
Cabin owner Judy Wing, of Missoula, jokingly said she should charge the bear rent. But the reluctant landlord does not believe she can do anything to evict her uninvited tenant.
"So far, the bear is ahead in this game," Wing said.
Jamie Jonkel, bear manager with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said it is not uncommon for bears to den under rural, seasonal homes.
If wildlife sees an empty cabin in the woods, it might as well look like a big rock or hollow log, Jonkel said.
The news still came as a surprise to Wing, who couldn't believe a bear would cozy up with her expensive sheets.
Stumbling upon the bear came as an even bigger surprise to members of Wing's family, who visited the cabin New Year's Day to find it ransacked.
At first, they figured someone had burgled the place. But as 28-year-old Bryon Schmaus helped clean the mess, all he could see missing was the bedding.
Not the television, or the satellite dish - just the bedding. All of it.
"We thought that was really weird," Schmaus said.
Next morning, they noticed pillows stuffed down the crawlspace. Probably the work of some raccoon, they figured.
Schmaus' father-in-law stuck his head down with a flashlight. Four feet away, he saw a pair of eyes staring back at him.
They weren't raccoon eyes.
"You couldn't get him out of that hold fast enough," Schmaus said.
Schmaus quickly nailed the hatch shut, and FWP came out to see what, if anything, they could do.
Unless the family wanted them to tear up a few floorboards, the game warden did not have enough space to safely dart and remove the bear.
Everyone decided to simply leave it alone until it moves along. Schmaus' 5-year-old daughter even named the bear Blue.
When Blue does finally leave, Jonkel said the family should make sure the cabin is boarded up and exterior crawlspace blocked off so this will not happen again.
As with everyone around Georgetown Lake, they should be careful not to leave out trash or birdfeeders that draw bears close to their homes, he added.
"In that kind of wild country, it all has to be contained nice and tight," Jonkel said.
Schmaus said he just does not want to see Blue exterminated due to human error.
"Now, we have a great family story," Schmaus said. "We'll always have the memories of our bear, Blue."
Reporter George Plaven may be reached at 496-5597, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/@George_Plaven.