We drove up to the camp and there was a young guy dressed in camouflage clothes, leaning over something on the ground. He looked up and greeted us as we parked the buggy. Lying on the ground in front of him was a bear. Even back then, it wasn't legal to shoot bears, so we were concerned we came across something we didn't want to be apart of. Our initial impression was wrong though. This young hunter had found this bear lying out in a prairie, with its head stuck in a small red plastic barrel. The bear had stuck its head in the barrel, probably to get a drink. The neck of the barrel was just large enough to get its head in, but not large enough to get it back out. Apparently, the barrels shape was such that the bear couldn't get its claws on the edge of the barrel to push it back off. We could only speculate how long the bear was in its predicament before this young hunter found it.
The bear was very weak and couldn't even lift its head. If you pushed on one of its paws, it pushed back but was in very bad shape. The young hunter had mixed sugar and water and was trying to get the bear to drink it (the barrel is in the foreground of the picture). Hoping that this would revive the bear and give it some strength back. About this time one of his friends came out from inside the cabin. They said they were going to take the bear down the L-28 canal and call the Game Commission to come get the bear, in hopes that they could save it. Since they had a plan, and a boat would get them to the hard road quicker then I could on a swamp buggy, I wished them good luck and left. I give credit to these young hunters for their respect of wildlife and the care they gave to this animal.
I heard later that the Game Commission had examined the bear and decided that it was to far gone to nurse it back to health and put it down.
The lesson in this is, that we should be careful what we discard, or leave laying around our camps. Seemly harmless objects can bring death to wildlife. Those of us that enjoy the outdoors, have a responsibility to carry out, what we bring into the outdoors. If this barrel had been taken back out of the swamp, there would be one more bear still in the woods to see.
This page created November 6, 2000 by Steve