A small bear cub was terrified when rescuers caught it last week to remove a plastic container covering its head and face, said Mike Schrage, a wildlife biologist for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
“It was a wrestling match,” Schrage said. “Four adults and one 30 pound bear. We had to watch the claws. At least with the container over its head it couldn't bite.”
Schrage said he received a call reporting the distressed cub from Mary Barney Tuesday, Sept. 8.
Barney, a Fond du Lac School bus driver, said she was delivering student meals with aide Christina Petite when they spotted the cub. They were at the intersection of White Spruce Drive and Jack Pine Drive when the cub walked through a yard and crossed the road in front of the bus.
Barney said she momentarily considered trying to help the bear, but decided to call Schrage instead. The women took photos of the bear and posted them to social media to alert residents to be on the lookout for the cub and possibly the mother bear.
“I felt bad for it,” Barney said.
Schrage said by the time he arrived, the cub was gone.
Another resident spotted the cub and called Schrage at 8 p.m. The bear had walked about five miles to Bergquist Road on the east shore of Big Lake, he said.
Fond du Lac Conservation Officers Duane Barney and Darren Seppela, volunteer Ellie Burken and Schrage arrived to find the bear cub 60 feet up a pine tree. The rescue crew settled in to wait and see if the cub would climb down, Schrage said.
The bear shimmied down the tree around 11 p.m. Officials tried to catch the bear with a noose pole — a long pole with a noose on one end that can be drawn shut — but the bear dodged them and climbed back up the tree.
The cub climbed back down around midnight, Schrage said. They waited until the bear was closer to the ground before attempting to catch it.
Schrage said everyone wore leather gloves to help protect them from the bear's one-inch claws. He said the cub did not scratch or bite anyone.
The officials got three more noose poles around the bear's feet and rolled the cub onto its back.
“It was squealing and bawling like a calf,” Schrage said. “It was not cooperative.”
The bear cub was terrified and trembling after they cut the container off its head with a branch cutter.
The cub's best chance for survival is reuniting with its mother, Schrage said. The scared cub spent the night in a bear cage kept warm in a garage overnight. Schrage released it the following morning near the spot where it was first sighted.
There have been more reports of bear sightings this summer, as the mild spring weather left the bears with less natural food sources, he said.
Schrage urged residents to help save wildlife by picking up garbage, including fishing line and plastic containers.