A mama black bear and one of her three cubs made their regular foraging rounds last week, rooting in the trash cans of a gas station on a military base in Anchorage. But it was early morning, so they didn't find much.
"But then, they smelled it," said Shelly Deano, manager of the Army & Air Force Exchange Service gas station on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in north Anchorage.
The unmistakable and inviting aroma of freshly fried fat and sugar had wafted out of the back of a Krispy Kreme delivery van, an invisible trail to a honey pot of sorts.
The bears went toward the van.
Moments earlier, around 6 a.m. on Sept. 12, a Krispy Kreme driver had pulled into the station, his second of three regular stops on the base. He opened the back of the van, grabbed his goods and hauled them into the store, where he delivers doughnuts and doughnut holes twice a week. What he didn't do was close the back of the van.
- Video: A close encounter with the 'alien bodies' in Mexico
- Family says 14-year-old daughter discovered iPhone taped to back of toilet seat on flight to Boston
- Can humans eating invasive species help curb their spread?
- A Black student was suspended for his hairstyle. The school says it wasn't discrimination
While the driver was inside and his doughnut stash unguarded, mama and her cub saw their chance. And they took it.
Deano was watching. A few minutes earlier, one of her two employees working that morning got her attention while she was in the office, alerting her to a rare appearance during business hours by the black bear family - regular visitors who usually wait until the dead of night to scavenge.
Deano emerged and watched the bears rove around the gas station. It was a notable cameo, but Deano didn't think much of it until she lost sight of the bears as they passed behind the van and headed toward pumps where customers were getting gas.
Wanting to avoid any bear-human clashes, Deano crouched so she could watch the bears pass under the van. When she didn't see them, Deano realized that the bears hadn't simply gone behind the van. They had gone into the van. She warned the delivery driver and advised him to call his boss.
Deano went outside and banged on the side of the van to try to scare the bears and drive them out. But they were unfazed. So she hailed base security and waited. The delivery driver called his boss from inside the store and came outside five to 10 minutes after Deano did.
All the while, the bears kept feasting.
"They just sat in there and ate doughnuts for at least 20 minutes," Deano said.
Mama and her cub scarfed down about 100 doughnut holes and three dozen doughnuts during that time, Candice Sargeant, general manager of the only Krispy Kreme in Anchorage, told The Washington Post.
"They just wanted all the sweets for themselves," she said.
In the meantime, Deano, the delivery driver and multiple customers snapped photos and shot videos of the bears scarfing down glazed and chocolate glazed doughnuts with abandon. Sargeant said the driver later recounted that the bears growled at him when he got a little too close, forcing him into a hasty retreat.
"I know he was pretty scared at first and then probably calmed down a little bit when he had the other employees there to kind of help him out," Sargeant said.
Base security arrived about 10 minutes after Deano called and used sirens to force the bears from the van. The bears lingered outside the van for a few more minutes until the blare of the sirens drove them back into the woods.
But not on an empty stomach.