Bear cub rescue

Via Jerry Coyne, I came across this story about a New Mexico couple Tom and Shirley Schenk who came to the rescue of some bear cubs who had fallen into a dumpster and couldn’t get out. The cries of the cubs and of their mother who had waited by the dumpster all night touched the couple who came up with a clever plan to get the cubs out while minimizing the danger to themselves.

As I have said, I am a sucker for animal rescue stories.


  1. Alverant says

    OK I’m going to take back some of the things I said about people living in that part of the country. There are some good ones there. That’s a sweet rescue story and very clever about using the ladder. I saw one of them tried to go back inside. You’d think they would have learned their lesson.

  2. Francisco Bacopa says

    I’ve seen this already, but I admire their initiative. I once rescued a baby black-bellied tree duck that had gotten trapped behind a cofferdam in a golf course water hazard. The parents were piping for the baby to come to them but he couldn’t get there.

    I walked up to the cofferdam and squatted down. Instant duck attack. They weigh a third less than mallards, but they pack a punch. I ran away. Once the ducks let up, I made a new plan. I took off my glasses and left them on the ground. The ducks had been grabbing my glasses and trying to gouge my eyes. I didn’t want them to drop my glasses in the water. I crawled on my belly with one arm over my face and they went for my ears this time. I got there and grabbed the duckling with my free hand and threw it into the main section of the pond as one of the ducks was getting its bill pretty far into my ear canal. As soon as the baby hit the water the parents abandoned their assault. The baby was already swimming toward his siblings at that point.

    This was in Hermann Park in Houston. Where only the strong survive. Tree ducks are winners here. So are the gigantic hissing Muscovy ducks with their tumor-like red growths growing out of their misshapen heads. And the domestic geese, mostly the fat grey geese, and the black billed birds I call “dinosaur geese”. Picnic near the water and these birds will mug you. These geese become so morbidly obese from their muggings that they cannot fly. They drag huge lobes of fat along the ground when they walk.

    BTW, I have good reports that the black-bellied tree duck is now a year resident of central Texas and has spread all the way around the Gulf Coast to Florida. Global warming is real. Bananas fruit as far inland as Cypress and Katy most years. While bananas died back and overwintered just fine to grow back as a nice late spring hedge plant in times past, actually getting fruit off them was mostly just a Galveston bay area thing. Whitewing doves have displaced Inca doves. Goldfinches have not been seen in twenty years, they winter up in Dallas now. Global warming deniers made a big deal of how it snowed in Houston four years ago. But what did that snow fall on? Ripe bananas. Are the deniers really dumber than a banana? The plants and animals know the truth. Any keen observer of nature knows. Show me a goldfinch on the Gulf coast and then I might consider what they have to say.

    But getting back to the bears. Smooth move. I probably would have tried to rescue the cubs too, but the rescuers were brave. Little ducks can be a formidable foe. Female bears are serious. That’s one of the things the Bible gets right. In addition to Elisha’s summoned bears, there is at least one other example where the wrath of God is described as being akin to a “she-bear deprived of her whelps”. Maybe there is a kind of mammalian empathy and mama bear knew the rescuers were trying to help. But mammalian empathy can work against us. Most mammals know to go for the crotch. My ducks did not know this.

  3. Mano Singham says

    That’s a nice story. I am pretty sure that I would not have had the nerve to fight off the other ducks like that so I take my hat off to you, or would if I wore one.

    As for mammalian empathy, I too wondered whether the mama bear backed off when the truck came because she had a sense that these people were trying to save her cubs and not harm them.

  4. left0ver1under says

    From the second link:

    The most important way to minimize human-bear conflicts is to keep garbage away from bears. Unsecured landfills and commercial and residential garbage bins attract bears like bees to flowers. Once a bear gets a taste of human garbage -- a box of stale doughnuts, say, or the leftovers from Thanksgiving supper -- it will routinely approach communities and other developed areas in search of food.

    I hate to raise the topic because people think it’s cruel, but often the only answer to bears and garbage is to put the bear down or take it into captivity. Once bears are acclimatized to humans, conflicts become more common. And once one bear does it, other bears in the area will join them. They may not have a language, but I’d bet they are as capable of communicating with each other as dogs and cats can do.

  5. Jockaira says

    It is much more likely that the momma bear was exercising extreme caution. The relative size of the truck and the noises of the diesel motor are enough to frighten even the largest predator, and if not frighten, then enrage.

    If you’ve ever listened to diesel pickup trucks before with a discerning ear, you can hear all sorts of sounds resembling attack snarls. The driver probably knew this; notice that he turned off his motor as soon as he had retreated to a safe distance, apparently to reassure the momma bear.

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