Shandaken Police received an interesting 911 phone call last Saturday after a bear cub closed itself into a trash bin owned by the Phoenicia Methodist Church. This modern day Yogi Bear was found when a member of the church opened the bin and threw their trash in, only to discover a pint-sized killing machine waiting inside. The person, who wasn’t named, was apparently “Beary” scared and wouldn’t return to the bin to help the cub out.
Events took a scarier turn when police arrived. Not only was the cub trying to get free, but she had also attracted a large amount of attention, not just from the local community, but also from Mommy. Pacing the area around the trash bin were a mother bear with her other cub; although the bears didn’t hurt anyone, they became increasingly distressed as time went on, meaning that they were a constant threat to everyone around the bin and anyone that may try and help the cub. Officer George Neher, who arrived at the scene, was grateful that the mother bear was not more protective or aggressive.
Although the Department of Environmental Conservation normally handles these types of situations (or helps law enforcement deal with situations involving bears), there were no available officers in the area that could arrive to the scene. In fact, the next closest law enforcement was a New York City Department of Environmental Protection patrol car that was protecting the environment over 40 minutes away. Officer Neher had to think fast, before Mother Bear lost her patience and gained her appetite. He recruited the town’s on-duty ambulance squad member, who was on the scene, and went to work.
The two men worked in perfect tandem; while the ambulance squad member cautiously moved toward the trash bin and unfastened the lid, Neher scared away the mother bear for a brief moment using his patrol car. Shortly thereafter, mother and cub were able to reunite peacefully. Neher was grateful that nobody was injured in the incident, only a little bit scared. Officials of the Phoenicia Methodist Church, where the incident occurred, hope to use this event as a learning tool; they contend that individuals from around the area already know that this bin is bear-proof, which makes them come specifically to dump their trash there! This is evident when the contents of the trash bin were examined; someone had thrown the remnants of an entire shrimp barbeque dinner in it!