Search is over for bear with jar on head near Thunder Bay, Ont.
TORONTO -- An elusive black bear that had its head stuck in a pickle jar for the last two weeks is no longer in a pickle and will likely make a full recovery, wildlife officials said Thursday.
Conservation officers near Thunder Bay, Ont., said an empty jar found on the shores of Lake Superior is the same one the curious animal had been struggling with.
Officials said the jar, which was found with a large clump of black fur inside, is the same style, size and shape as the jar seen on the bear's head in a photo taken this week.
The jar had scratches on it, and a hole consistent with a claw mark, officials said. A canoeist found it less than a mile away from where the bear was last spotted.
"I'm hoping that he pulled it off. The worst would be that he tried to swim and the jug would fill up with water, and he'd drown," said Ross Johnston, a conservation officer with Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources.
"I don't expect we'll hear from mister bear again."
It was a storybook ending that some likened to A.A. Milne's famous tale of Winnie-the-Pooh, about a bear who got his head stuck in a jar while trying to slurp up the last drop of honey inside.
Rob Paterson snapped a photo of the distressed black bear Tuesday, when it wandered onto the deck of his summer home on Lambert Island, about 25 miles east of Thunder Bay.
The photo showed the animal had lost a significant amount of weight.
The jar was preventing the bear from eating or drinking, and some worried it could die.
Lynn Rogers of the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minn., said food is especially important this time of year because bears are starting to gain fat to keep warm in the winter.
"With the majority of the berry crops still ahead of us, the bear will do just fine," he said, adding it was probably a stroke of luck that helped the bear finally pry the jar away.
"It must've just got the right angle with its two paws and pulled it off," he said.
"Maybe he just happened to stretch it so it got over his ears the right way."
Sharon Cole-Paterson, whose husband Rob took the photo of the bear, said the positive outcome is an opportunity to increase public education about reporting animals in distress, as well as the need for proper recycling.
Recycling officials said Wednesday that if the jar had been recycled instead of ending up at a garbage dump, the bear would not have been in this dilemma.
"We do need to encourage people to manage their waste more effectively," said Cole-Paterson.
"It's possible to prevent this from happening again."
Other nearby residents had criticized the ministry's response and wanted officials to step up their search for the bear.
Ray Blais, a caretaker at a dump in Hurkett, Ont., where the bear is believed to have found the jar, said he saw the troubled animal July 11.
He said he saw officials come within about 15 yards of the bear, but they missed shooting it with a tranquilizer dart.
"They said they took a shot at it and missed it, but why did they leave the bear in that position? Why didn't they stay around to try to collar it?" Blais asked.
Officials struggled to keep up with the bear because it was last seen in a heavily wooded area, explained Johnston, the conservation officer.
"It's completely forested, so you're trying to find a bear that doesn't want to be seen and will run away from you in dense bush," he said.
"We were relying on the public to call and give us updates."