NEWPORT, Tenn. - Wildlife agents removed a plastic jar that had been stuck for weeks on the head of a male black bear and released him back into the wild, safe but underweight.
The bear was first spotted in jeopardy on June 28 when a Newport Utilities worker saw it near the water treatment plant. Wildlife officials believe the bear got his head stuck in the jar when he was foraging through garbage.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency tried to locate the animal since the initial sighting and have been getting a flurry of reports of a bear with what appeared to be a space helmet on its head near Cosby, according to The Knoxville News Sentinel. Fifty calls poured into the Cocke County 911 center and the TWRA office.
Finally on July 17, wildlife officer Shelly Hammonds was checking out a report that the bear had again been sighted in Newport when the animal ran out in front her vehicle. Hammonds was able to sedate it with a tranquillizer dart. The bear collapsed in downtown Newport and dozens of people watched while the animal was given fluids intravenously and the jar removed.
TWRA officials say the bear weighed about 115 pounds when it was caught, but the bear's normal weight should be around 200 pounds. The bear was released into the Cherokee National Forest.
Hammonds said the bear couldn't eat during the ordeal, but it appeared he was able to drink by laying his head in a pond or steam and getting water into the jar. Hammonds said she was surprised the bear survived in the sweltering summer heat.
"I honestly don't know how any creature on earth could live through that kind of heat and dehydration, surviving on its own breath," Hammonds said. "When you see an animal with such an incredible will to survive, you really want to help it."