Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Facebook alert brings rescue for ‘Bucket Bear’ in Clarion County

Parker, Pa. — “Bucket Bear,” a small, male black bear in Perry Township, Clarion County, was freed from what appeared to be a large plastic bucket on its head on Labor Day, Sept. 1, as a growing Internet audience followed the rescue on a Facebook page. 
(The page, “Save the Bucket Bear,” can be found on www.facebook.com, or you can see the video by searching for bucket bear video.)
The story of the rescue has since been reported by media worldwide.
The bear with its head trapped in what turned out to be a “maxi,” one of the black air bags that provide cushioning between a tractor and its trailer, was first spotted along Route 368 as early as July 4. It was known to many residents of the area and had been reported to the Pennsyl­vania Game Commission.
Several commenters have criticized the commission for not doing more to help the bear. Some claimed the commission had completely ignored all reports of the bear and taken no action at all.
However, Travis Lau, spokesman for the commission, said, “We received several calls over the course of the last month-and-a-half or so. Officers responded several times to sites where the bear had been spotted, but we were never able to get there before the bear had moved on. We set a trap, which was kind of a long shot given the bear’s head was covered. That didn’t work either.”
The final hours of Bucket Bear’s mobile imprisonment began late on the Sunday before Labor Day, when the Facebook page was created. It soon caught the attention of Dean Hornberger and Samantha Eigenbrod, animal rescue volunteers in Sligo who planned an attempt to help the bear the next day.
“I said right away, ‘We’re going to have to go out there tomorrow morning and see if we can help this thing,’” remembered Hornberger.
However, when they visited the spot where the bear was last reported, Bucket Bear was nowhere to be found. They spent about two hours searching through the woods and wetlands in the area, but failed to find the animal and were returning to the truck when the bear appeared next to Route 368.
With Eigenbrod filming the event on her cellphone, Hornberger attempted to pull off the bucket. Despite some powerful tugging, Hornberger was unable to accomplish his goal. The metal rim of the maxi was around the bear’s neck and prevented Hornberger from just tugging it free.
By that time, Shawn Balcita, Eric Kribbel and Kaitlyn Lakin had parked their vehicles and joined the effort, which turned into a 20-minute chase through a creek and into “the biggest mud hole in the area,” according to Hornberger.
The crew eventually tackled the bear in that wetland area. “We all sort of dog-piled on top of the bear to get it down,” recalled Hornberger.
Tugging by several of the group would not dislodge the maxi. Kribbel attempted to cut through the metal ring with his Leatherman utility tool, but that also failed, sending Hornberger running back to the toolbox in his truck.
He returned with a hacksaw that 20 minutes later had enabled the rescuers to cut through the metal ring and enough of the plastic of the maxi to pry it open wide enough to pull it from the bear’s head.
As soon as the maxi was removed from his head, Bucket Bear slipped out from under Balcita, who was laying atop the animal to pin it to the ground, and darted off into the forest.
Hornberger said Balcita received a few minor scratches from the bear’s claws, but otherwise the entire rescue party suffered nothing more than a heavy dousing in the mud of the wetland area.
He estimated the bear’s weight at 180-200, noting that “he was way behind what he should be for his weight” at this time of year, when bears normally pack on fat for the coming winter hibernation. It also appeared “physically exhausted” after the chase into the wetland.
A small opening in the maxi had allowed the bear to get some food and water during its confinement, according to Hornberger, who noted that some rotting corn and apples also were found in the maxi.

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