Well, this is em-bear-assing.
Minnesota state officials had to remind the public not to approach a hibernating bear after a well-meaning group tried to offer up a “smorgasbord” of sweets and cat food to one of the animal’s that was stuck in the snow.
The group stumbled upon a 6-year-old black bear earlier this week that had reportedly been trapped inside a culvert alongside the road near Wannaska, a township about 25 miles south of the Canadian border, for three days.
The male bear had hunkered down in the hole for his winter nap, but became struck after melting snow flooded the culvert and refroze around the animal, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.
The group approached the 400-pound omnivore and tried to dig it out.
“They also served him up a smorgasbord of six pop tarts, a head of lettuce, a dead sucker minnow, some Fancy Feast cat food, bird seed, and a Swedish fish,” the DNR said.
“That might work for the Very Hungry Caterpillar in Eric Carle’s book, but it’s no good for bears.”
The bear didn’t accept the group’s goodies as the animals don’t have the desire to eat in the winter, officials said.
According to KVLY-TV, the bear was stuck in the culvert for three days and numerous callers reported the distressed animal before a DNR crew came to its rescue.
The state group came under fire for the delay, and after one of its staffers told a concerned caller that “nature should take its course.”
“We know that sounds unfeeling, but it’s typically better for animals (and humans) when we allow that to happen,” the DNR said in a statement.
“Typically bears would be able to escape a wet culvert on their own, but this was not a typical case.”
The agency claimed its staff did not have all the details, “proper personnel, gear, and equipment in place” to make the rescue earlier than it did.
Ultimately, a DNR team used a syringe pole to inject the bear with an anesthetic to knock him out before extracting him from the ice.
“It took about five guys to haul him up and out of the hole once we dug him out,” state bear biologist Andrew Tri told Inforum. “We just had to free his leg out of the hole of the culvert.”
“He clearly smelled like runoff — stinky, stagnant water — but generally speaking, I don’t think he was totally frozen in. I think he just got caught up in some of that thick ice where he pushed out and just hooked himself goofy.”
Though there was some blood on the outside of the culvert where the bear had been scraping in an effort to escape, an evaluation by Tri showed that the animal was healthy and had no signs of frostbite.
“But groggy—obviously, because he’d been woken up from his winter sleep!” the state said.
The bear was relocated to a state game sanctuary where he could continue hibernating without interference.
“If you’re ever concerned about a bear’s safety by all means give us a call,” said the DNR. “But don’t try to move it or feed it! Doing so can result in a bad situation (either for you or for the bear).”