Jarhead: The little bear that beat the odds
Friday, August 13, 2010
Media contact: Joy Hill, 352-258-3426
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 together.
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.
The 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
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 trap.
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
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 area.
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.
To date, the FWC has not gotten any further reports
of the bear family. And that's good news indeed.