A black bear cub that was spotted with its head stuck in a large plastic jar has been freed and released back into the forest of northwest Maryland, capping off a three-day-long effort to track down and help the animal before it perished from dehydration.
As reported by their Facebook post, staff from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDDNR) Wildlife & Heritage Service and Natural Resource Police located the 45-kilogram (100-pound) male cub on the grounds of a ski and golf resort perched near the shore of Deep Creek Lake on Saturday. At the time, the resort was hosting a five-day Fall seasonal festival, meaning that an audience of excited civilians got to watch as the young ursid was carefully sedated and cut out of the restrictive food container.
“A crowd of on-lookers at Wisp Resort were giddy to see the cub safely tranquilized and returned to the nearby woods with the sow and one other cub,” the agency wrote. “What a great ending to Autumn Glory weekend!”
An MDDNR representative told IFLScience that they were tipped off about the cub and aided in their search by multiple reports of sightings from locals, beginning on October 10.
Much like raccoons and foxes, black bears have responded to the increasing human presence in once-wild areas not by running away and becoming more skittish, but rather by learning how to best access our food stores and scraps. Black bears are infamous for their tendency to waltz into occupied campsites, drawn by the smell of high-calories snacks, and for their ability to easily pry open any sealed bins, sheds, dumpsters, and even locked cars that may lie in between them and their dinner.
Though human food items rarely pose a direct risk to bears, as the plastic jar did, wildlife experts have determined that access to our products can significantly harm the omnivorous creatures in the long run. Observational studies show that bears with the opportunity to consume our food quickly gain a preference for it over natural food, and will continually return to known sites instead of seeking out new resources. In the process, the bears lose their fear of people, and are therefore more likely to be hit by a car, shot by hunters or poachers, or euthanized for becoming a “nuisance” – a designation given to any individual that causes too much property damage or regularly shows up where we don’t want them.
In addition, addiction to the fast and easy nutrition of our food causes some bears to become uncharacteristically aggressive and unpredictable, leading, once again, to a greater chance that they will be killed by park or local officials.