Jarhead the bear relieved of its plastic death trap, runs free

It took ten days for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists to catch a black bear cub that was running around with a clear plastic jar stuck on its head.

“They were ultimately successful, but it took extraordinary efforts from both FWC employees and local residents working together,” FWC said in a news statement released with these photos on Friday.



Jarhead and a sibling elude biologists trying to capture it.

(FWC photo)

“The 6-month-old cub, its two siblings and mother were regular visitors to unsecured trash containers in a small community near Weirsdale, in the Ocala National Forest. One day in late July, FWC dispatch got a call from one of the residents concerned about a cub running around with a clear, industrial-size plastic jar stuck on its head. The jar made it almost impossible for the cub to eat or drink, FWC said.

black bear fast facts.jpg

The agency’s Mike Orlando, Brian Scheick and Cathy Connolly, and Mike Connolly, a bear-response agent for the agency, knew that if they didn’t catch the cub, affectionately dubbed “Jarhead,” it would die, so they developed a plan to trap it.

“It was a lot easier said than done,” Orlando said. “The residents were really great about calling us when they saw the bears, but it seemed like we were always about 20 minutes behind.”

The team set traps in different areas, hoping to catch the mother and tranquilize her, which would then allow them to catch the cubs, FWC said. “Unfortunately, the good mother bear refused to be tricked by the baited trap.”

After eight days of sightings, two days went by when nobody saw the bear family, the agency added.

“The team feared the cub may have finally succumbed to his condition. Ironically, the day the team resigned to pull the traps and head home, Orlando got a call from FWC dispatch. A resident had called to report the bear family was back. The team rushed back to the community.

“Orlando found the mother and was able to shoot her with a tranquilizer dart. Then Orlando and Scheick literally caught the cubs by surprise and managed to grab Jarhead. But the tough little bear lived up to its U.S. Marine moniker and did not give up without a fight.

“Eventually, they subdued the cub long enough to get the jar off its head, and then let it go to rejoin its siblings. The team, with the help of some concerned residents, placed the mother bear’s sleeping body in a trap, and eventually the cubs joined her.”

Jarhead bear photo 2.JPG

Biologists monitored the bear family overnight after removing the jar from the cub’s head.

(FWC photo)

After observing the family overnight in the trap, and making sure it was able to nurse, biologists released the family in a nearby, less populated area, FWC said.

Jarhead bear photo 3.JPG

Jarhead scampers behind its mother back to the woods after biologists released them from an overnight stay in the trap.

(FWC photo)

“Although the story appears to have a happy ending, it truly illustrates one of the worst things that can happen when wildlife gets into garbage,” the agency concluded.

The FWC has not gotten any further reports of the bear family. “And that’s good news indeed,” the agency said.

Posted by David Braun from media materials provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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Meet the Author
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn