Cub stuck in dumpster bears watching

By Jay Braman Jr.
What a bear cub thought was going to be an evening of fine dining behind the Phoenicia Methodist Church turned into a night of terror for the cub after someone shut the lid on his festivities. Literally.

On Saturday, June 1 Shandaken Police received a 911 call about a bear whose head was stuck in the doorway of a metal “Bear-i-cade” Dumpster. Apparently the bear, only a little yearling, was inside the steel box when someone came by and threw some trash into it and closed the bear-proof top.

Shandaken Police Officer George Neher arrived on the scene to see several onlookers watching helplessly as the yearling cub tried to get free.

Also observing the incident were a mother bear and another cub, both of which Neher said were prowling the area and becoming more and more agitated as time went on.

“This situation could have been much worse,” said Neher, who immediately cleared the scene of onlookers. “Mother bears are very protective of their offspring. They have been known to be extremely aggressive when they feel their babies are threatened.”

Faced with the task of freeing the cub and simultaneously warding off the mother, Neher decided that backup was needed and put out the call, but found out that he was on his own.

He first requested help from the Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency that normally handles these calls, but was told that no officers were available. Asking for help from any other available units, Neher was informed that the closest police presence was a New York City Department of Environmental Protection patrol car, but it was over 40 minutes away.

As luck would have it, an on-duty member of the town’s ambulance squad happened by the scene. With matters getting worse by the minute, Neher and paramedic Mark Bedell decided to act.
While Neher used his patrol car to scare off the mother, Bedell went to the Dumpster and unlatched the lid by hand.

“This allowed the cub to escape and to be reunited with its mother and sibling,” Neher said.
On Tuesday, church officials said they hope that word of the incident gets out and prevents further problems.

They say that, because people in the community are aware of the bear-proof Dumpster, people often come by at night and throw trash into it. On that particular night, someone had thrown the remains of a shrimp barbeque and some empty dog food cans into the Dumpster, both prime attractions for always hungry bears.