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Locals Use Pop Tarts to Try and Save Bear Trapped in Snow

When a black bear in Wannaska, Minnesota found itself in a sticky situation, local residents scrambled to come to its aid. 

The bear, which had been living in a drainage culvert, quickly became stuck in heavy snow after an early thaw caused water to flow through its makeshift den. Despite its best efforts to dig itself out of the hole, the bear’s attempts to escape were in vain. It soon found itself wedged between snowdrifts and unable to move, trapping it in place. Local residents were shocked to stumble upon a bear seemingly sticking out of the snow, but wanted to assist. 

According to the Grand Forks Herald, inquisitive locals made multiple attempts to help the bear. They loaded up on treats like sucker fish, lettuce, and even Pop Tarts, offering it to the trapped animal. (Note that feeding wild animals—especially human junk food—is never recommended, as habituating animals to human food can result in human-bear conflicts that often lead to the animal getting euthanized later on.) When that didn’t work out, they tried to carve the bear out from the snow by digging around it. They were ultimately unable to free the animal, but that wasn’t the end of the story. Having given up on their own rescue mission, two men cordoned off the area and waited for professional assistance. 

Black bears in Minnesota typically hibernate for up to seven months during the winter, living off the fat stores they accumulated during the warmer seasons. This bear may have struggled to free itself due to the loss of strength that can occur during hibernation. The heavy snowfall certainly didn’t make things any easier. Luckily, it didn’t have to wait long for help to arrive. 

Image by Andy Tri, Minnesota DNR

The following day, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources bear project leader Andy Tri made his way out to the bear’s location from Grand Rapids to free it. Once there, he assessed the situation before acting.

“He tried to push himself out and kind of got wedged on some frozen water that had frozen and thawed, frozen and thawed and got stuck in place and tired,” Tri told the Herald of the bear’s cold weather predicament. 

Tri immediately sedated the bear and his crew got to work digging the animal out for a much-needed medical examination. The bear’s estimated weight was between 375 and 400 pounds and showed it no signs of frostbite. 

“He went right down in 10 minutes, and it took about five guys to haul him up and out of the hole once we dug him out,” Tri said of the rescue, which he called “standard”.  “We just had to free his leg out of the hole of the culvert.”

In the end, even the prospect of eating toaster pastries couldn’t coax the bear free, but it was ultimately given a second chance to continue its hibernation. Tri fitted the bear with ear tags for identification and then drove it to the Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area, where it was placed in a new den. 

“That’s one thing that I love about Greater Minnesota is that everybody’s willing to lend a hand,” Tri said of the locals showering the bear with snacks. “Bears aren’t eating this time of year, but their hearts were in the right place.”

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