The Outdoors In Jones Township

Another successful bear story and interesting day in the life of a Game Warden.

by Dick Bodenhorn

Elk County Wildlife Conservation Officer

The day began when neighboring WCO Doty McDowell called requesting that I bring my bear drugs and processing equipment to Bendigo State Park where he had a cub in a trap, two more cubs in a tree and the sow trying to set the trapped cub free.

It wasn’t long after I got there that Doty managed to get a dart into the sow. The only concern was that she immediately went up the tree with her cubs. Fortunately she got herself positioned over a cluster of hemlock limbs and didn’t fall from the tree when she went out.

A few calls were made and soon we had a bucket truck on its way to help out. Though they had a quick response the sow was starting to come out of the drug when they got there so as soon as they got Doty up to the bear he gave it another shot of drug to keep it out until we get it and its cubs all safely on the ground. But, getting a sleeping 211 pound bear untangled from tree limbs and lowered to the ground really isn’t as easy as it sounds.

First Doty had to get the rope up over a limb above the bear then work a rope around the bear and get it tied off so that it wouldn’t restrict the bear’s breathing as we first pulled it up out of its resting place then lowered it to the ground.

To accomplish that task we pulled the rope up tight then put sever wraps around a pipe on the back of the bucket truck. Then several of us pulled the rope until we had it lifted up out of its entanglement with large hemlock limbs. To do that Doty had to kind of steer it up as we pulled it up toward the limb the rope was over. Once we got it up then Doty had to pull it over away from the limbs so we could lower it down through the limbs. But, we soon had it on it way out of the tree and lowered to the ground.

Once we had mom on the ground we still had to get the two cubs out of the tree. That required a snare pole around the cub and just manhandling it out of the tree. Now some people probably think that is an easy thing to do but trust me when I tell you that a 35 pound bear cub can be one powerful animal when it gets a hold on something. But, we did manage to get them both out of the tree and lowered to the ground. But, then a 35 pound bear cub on the ground is no picnic to handle either.

Once we had the two treed cubs both on the ground and in cages we finished processing their mother. We tagged her, removed a tooth and taped her weight at 211 pounds. She was in good condition and it was soon time to get her in the trap. But, we already had one cub in the trap so we had to deal with it before we could get mom in the trap. I got a snare pole on the cub in the trap, we fought it out onto the ground and we soon had a small amount of drug in it, tags in its ears and back in the trap. The cub was never totally sedated but it was controlled enough that we could get mom back in the trap with it. That cub was about a 35 pound male.

Next we got another of the cubs and I got some drug in it and it was soon completely out. Two ear tags, open the trap door again and I laid it in the trap on top of mom. It too was a male. Just one more cub and what a handful it was. It took two shots of drug and still wouldn’t go out so we finally tagged it while it was trying to bite and claw me, fortunately the drug had it slowed down a bit. Wouldn’t you know it was a female cub. Soon all three cubs were back in the trap with mom.

All that left to do was relocate them to a new home where hopefully they will stay out of trouble. But, we was concerned about transporting them with mom being out. We were afraid she would move around as she was coming out of the drug and end up laying on and smothering a cub so we decided to use the reversal drug on mom and have her up and alert before transporting. Up with the door again and put a dose of the reversal drug into her femoral vein. In just minutes mom is alert and back on her feet and ready for a trip to Quehanna.

Another successful bear story and interesting day in the life of a Game Warden.

Dick Bodenhorn