An East Bay woman was attacked by a bear in the kitchen of her North Lake Tahoe home last weekend, and she's speaking out to warn other people about the dangers of bears who are becoming more accustomed to having humans in their midst.
Laurel-Rose Von Hoffmann-Curzi, 66, told her frightening tale to KTVU, just months after sharing photos with the station of a bear roaming her property in Tahoe Vista. Von Hoffmann-Curzi lives in Orinda with her husband and son, but she says she was isolating at the family's second home in Tahoe as she is being treated for Stage 4 lymphoma.
Around 6 a.m. one morning last weekend, she was awoken by noises in the kitchen of the house, and went to investigate. She found a bear by the refrigerator, and the bear immediately went on the attack.
"He must have come straight at me," Von Hoffmann-Curzi says. "I have only a vision of the paw. It was dark and then I'm getting torn up."
The scene sounds scary, indeed, and very well could have been fatal.
"I was bleeding and scared and screaming," she says. "I should be dead the way the bear swiped at my face and right here," she said pointing to her neck.
Von Hoffmann-Curzi is a doctor in private practice, and she showed her wounds on camera. She suffered puncture wounds and cuts all over her body, and needed stitches for a laceration on her cheek.
Black bears have been increasingly present in populated areas of Lake Tahoe in recent years, and this summer's fire season led to a lot more wandering and scavenging in human neighborhoods, especially during the evacuations from the Caldor Fire. As El Dorado County sheriff's Sgt. Simon Brown said at the time, "The delicate balance between humans and bears has been upset."
Bears are also, increasingly, not hibernating during the winter season around Tahoe because of the abundance of food at their disposal via humans' garbage.
As Von Hoffmann-Curzi tells KTVU of the animal that attacked her, "This bear's been in the neighborhood. He's not afraid of people. My screaming didn't frighten him."
Authorities warn people not to leave pet food outdoors, or unsecured food waste, but obviously even food smells that come from inside a home can attract bears.
Von Hoffmann-Curzi said this was the first time any bear had actually broken into their house.
Photo: Joshua J. Cotten