The image of a cuddly bear with its head in a honey jar is a cherished memory for generations weaned on “Winnie the Pooh” cartoons.
But a bear cub with its head stuck inside a 26-ounce plastic jar of cheese balls wasn’t quite so charming for a wildlife rescue team — or for the upset Florida black bear cub that found itself in such a predicament.
On Tuesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released a video on social media headlined “Stash your trash!” that showed how the FWC team helped the cub break free of the bothersome container of Herr’s Cheese Balls.
“We received a call about a bear cub with a plastic cheese ball jar stuck on its head, and our experts were able to go to the scene. The adult bear was caught almost immediately, but it took a few hours to capture the cub and its sibling,” FWC wrote on its post.
The rescue required a bit of ingenuity. First, they had to capture the cub to get it and the jar in a workable space. The team’s biologist slid a catch pole — “a tool similar to what an animal control officer would use to catch a dog” — into the trap to hold the plastic jar in place.
That’s when spirits began to lift. Amid whimpering sounds from the struggling cub, with the offending cheese balls container still on its head, the rescue team shouts words of encouragement — “C’mon!” — that soon turn to joy and laughter as the cub makes progress by wriggling and finally pulling its head free on its own. “He’s coming! He’s coming! Yay!”
“The plastic jar could have been fatal for the cub, but thanks to our team, it was able to be released into our robust black bear population,” the FWC posted after the bears returned to their home in the woodsy area of Astor in Lake County, on the west side of the St. Johns River.
The FWC used the video post, which had nearly 6,000 views by Wednesday, as a means to educate the public on proper trash disposal. Bears, they said, “are particularly active this time of year as they consume up to 20,000 calories a day in preparation for the winter” — and that apparently includes the crumbly residue at the bottom of a discarded container of cheese balls.
“Please help bears avoid dangerous situations like this by securing your trash and make sure to rinse out recyclables. This will also help keep you and your neighbors safe,” the FWC team posted.
For more information “on living in bear country,” visit www.MyFWC.com/Bear or call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-3922.