A 45 minute drive from Yellowstone National Park, Buck's T-4 Lodge has been welcoming visitors to Big Sky, Montana, for more than 50 years. But last weekend, it hosted a different kind of guest than the usual nature lover: a young black bear that climbed through a bathroom window and took a nap in the sink.
The bear appeared to have no reservation at the lodge and was removed immediately.
Buck's posted a video to the lodge's Facebook page on Monday, showing the efforts of the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials to remove the yearling bear out of the lobby bathroom and into safety.
It's not uncommon to spot wildlife like moose, elk and deer near the lodge, but bear sightings are rarer for the property. Even more out of the ordinary is having one come indoors: "We have never had one inside the building," says Buck's co-owner David O'Connor.
The video starts in the lobby of Buck's. It's nighttime, and officials are working on getting into the women's bathroom, where the bear is sleeping.
Earlier that evening, two employees had heard a banging noise come from the corner of the lobby. Through the window, they could see the small bear peeking inside. The bear appeared a few more times before disappearing back into the night. Not long afterward, the employees heard noise from the nearby lobby bathroom.
"He had worked his way down that wall and found a window that was cracked, and opened it up," O'Connor explains. "Bears are pretty strong."
The bear was stuck. It wasn't possible to climb out of the window anymore, and to get out of the bathroom through the lobby, the bear would have had to use the handle to pull the door open.
"He was, for all intents and purposes, pretty safely tucked into that room," O'Connor says. "It was very easy to control the situation."
The hotel staff called in the help of county and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials. The sheriff arrived quickly, and the game warden got to the lodge later.
The bear was in no hurry to leave.
"He was pretty happy where he was," O'Connor says. "He saw people outside and was pretty spooked. He made himself at home in the bathroom counter where the sinks are and went to sleep."
The team tranquilized the bear, then carried it outside to safety.
"He's so cute," a guest says in the video as the sedated bear is whisked away through the lobby. A small crowd had gathered to watch it go.
Eventually the uninjured bear was taken to a more remote part of the state to be released.
"It was the best-case scenario," O'Connor says. "Best for the bear, best for the guests."
The end of summer signals the time for hyperphagia, the process in which bears put on weight they need for winter hibernation. Experts warn that people should avoid being near bears and their food.
The state's Fish, Wildlife & Parks website has a Be Bear Aware page, where recommendations include carrying bear pepper spray (and knowing how to use it), maintaining a safe distance from the animals, staying calm and avoiding eye contact.
"There's no shortage of stories around the Yellowstone area of people getting too close to wildlife," O'Connor says. "Wildlife is unpredictable. They can be dangerous. This was a very unique experience."