August 13, 2010
Florida - It took 10 days for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) biologists to catch a black bear cub in Marion County that
was days away from death. They were ultimately successful, but it took
extraordinary efforts from both FWC employees and local residents working
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.
Jarhead The Black Bear Cub
he FWC'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.
Unfortunately, the good mother bear refused to be tricked by the baited
After eight days of sightings, two days went by when nobody saw the bear
family. 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.
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
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.