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By The Canadian Press
LAMBERT ISLAND, Ont. - A hungry bear with a plastic jar stuck on its head had wildlife officials in northwestern Ontario scrambling Wednesday to trap the elusive animal, while conservationists cried foul over recycling habits.
Concerns that it was the same bear spotted northeast of Thunder Bay two weeks ago, in the same dilemma, had provincial Ministry of Natural Resources officers fearing for its health.
Dehydration was their main concern.
"We know he's weak, he looks very emaciated. He's obviously lost some weight," said Ross Johnston, a conservation officer with the ministry.
"It may just be the condensation from his breath inside this container that he's surviving from."
The X-kilogram bear, believed to be about a year old, evaded ministry officials and provincial police, who spent two days trying to catch or tranquilize it.
Officials set a trap on Lambert Island, some 40 kilometres east of Thunder Bay, where Rob Paterson snapped a photo of the animal when it wandered onto the deck of his summer home on Tuesday.
Paterson said he's also tried to isolate the bear without success.
His wife, Sharon Cole-Paterson said residents felt sorry for the animal.
"We really want to rescue this bear. He's in a really bad spot, poor thing," she said in a telephone interview.
The locals' first reaction was to help the animal, but they then realized it could be dangerous to approach a bear.
"We've made every attempt so far to try to corral him or trap him or dart him, but he's very elusive," Rob Paterson said.
Johnston said he thinks the bear may have found the approximately nine-litre jar at a dump near Nipigon, Ont., about 115 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.
Officials believe it's the same bear first spotted there two weeks ago.
Joanne St. Godard, of non-profit group the Recycling Council of Ontario, said the bear was in this predicament because someone didn't properly recycle the jar in the first place.
"This is obviously a direct result of our waste and obviously it has affected this bear directly and quite sadly," she said.
"It points to the whole need for us to think about how we're disposing the things that we're using in everyday life and not take for granted what consequences it might have."
Capturing the bear was difficult because the animal could still hear and see movement from inside the opaque jar, and ran away from people, Johnston said.
Officials need to get within 20 metres of a bear to shoot a tranquilizer dart safely.
It has to be shot into a muscle to avoid injuring the animal.
Johnston said the bear likely could not smell the meat left in the trap.
Lynn Rogers, who has studied bear behaviour for 44 years said the best chance officials have to help the animal is to coax it up a tree and use a long stick with a tranquilizer at the end.
Once the jar is removed, the bear is unlikely to attack, but would instead run away, said Rogers, who works at the North American Bear Centre in Ely, Minn.
He said it is a crucial time of year for bears to bulk up their fat in order to keep warm in the winter.
"This is the time of year when they're starting to add weight rapidly with the berries ripe. So somebody's got to just get persistent with (helping the bear)," he said.
It is early enough in the berry season for the bear to regain the lost weight and make a full recovery, he added.
He's heard of only two other incidents where a bear has found its way into a jar.
In 2008, wildlife officials in Minnesota spent six days trying to capture a black bear with a jar stuck on its head.They sparked outrage after killing the animal when it wandered into a nearby town.
Lambert Island's distance from Thunder Bay means the bear would have a long trek to make before getting close to town, Johnston said.
"(Shooting the bear) would be the absolute last option we would use," he said.
He said he's seen skunks struggle with jam jars stuck on their heads, but this is the first time he's seen a bear with the same problem.
— By Mary Gazze in Toronto
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