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Most mothers are overprotective and are always alert to ensure their babies do not get in harms way, so what do mothers do when they are in a situation where they cannot help their babies? A black bear in Rudiso was distressed when her two cubs were stuck in a dumpster, luckily, help came from the most unexpected Samaritans…


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Environmentalists are always discussing the impact of urban expansion on wildlife. The black bear, though recent always found in cities and towns and near main roads, is supposed to be foraging in mountains and forests. So what makes the black bear constantly come out to town?


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The black bear is an animal that adapts to its conditions rather easily. It has always been attracted to human communities because the areas make it easier for the bear to find food. This is why in horror or even family movies we see the constant bear attack at the camp site in the woods. The black bear then has adapted to urban environments because going through garbage is a lot easier than hunting.

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A  2003 study published in the ‘Journal of Zoology’ stated that bears that live near urban areas are more active at night. ‘National Geography’ said the following when commenting on the intelligence of the bear “bears are extremely efficient foragers and so intelligent, resourceful and adaptable”. However, we all have our limits and the following three cubs reach theirs…

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In 2012, a couple in Rudiso were alarmed by cries that were coming from outside their home. When they went to go look they realized that a big distressed bear was pacing up and down near a dumpster. They soon realized that this was a mother bear whose children were stuck inside the big dumpster.

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Shirley and Tom Schenk, the couple, said that this was not the first time. They told of how the bears are so smart they can open the latches that close the big dumpsters themselves to be able to search for what to eat inside. Shirley also added that the mother bear is notorious in the neighborhood and so it was no surprise that it was this bear and her cubs that were caught in a pickle.

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Shirley and Tom fetched their pick-up tuck from home to be able to help the cubs out of the dumpster. They brought a ladder as well so that the cubs could use it to climb out themselves without feeling like Shirley and Tom will cause them any harm if they were to remain close.

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As the couple approached with the pick-up truck, the mother bear moved away from the dumpster but still remained in close rage watching the rescue of her babies from the sideline. Shirley and Tom lowered the ladder in the dumpster and reversed away so that the cubs could help themselves out of the dumpster and get to their mother.

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The three cubs climbed out of the dumpster one after the other and as soon as the first one landed on the ground, the mother bear started slowly walking away. It is common for a mother to seem frantic when things are not going well only to move on afterwards as if the situation did not just happen when it is solved.


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Most of us would have been scared to even come out and hear where the noise is coming from outside our house let alone go the extra mile and save bear cubs while their mother was watching at a distance. Shirley was not scared and explains it in this way “I had my husband driving, and I knew we’d drop the ladder and go – I would have never done that on foot”.

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This was not the couple’s first rodeo, they have saved trapped bears twice before this encounter. Bears trapped in a dumpster is also not an uncommon situation and has happened before in Minnesota where a woman needed to help two trapped bears to get out.


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It was in October 2017 and two bear cubs were trapped in a dumpster. A woman tried to lure them out but the bears could not get themselves out just like the cubs that were rescued by Shirley and Tom. What was worse in this case is that there was a crowd of people surrounding the dumpster which scared the cubs.


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The woman lowered a ladder into the dumpster and one of the cubs quickly climbed out. The other cub was afraid of the crowd and only popped its head out only to go back inside the dumpster. After a while the cub realized that the people won’t hurt it and it climbed out and joined the other one.


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Rosemary Stussy who is a biologist gave people this advice for when they encounter bears since  it has become such a widespread problem, “they’re rarely aggressive toward people, they generally just ignore you, just don’t look at them in the eyes as they deem it to be confrontatinal”.


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Shirley Schenk, the bear savior, says that she only time she comes into head on contact with bears is when she is trying to help them and even then she maintains a distance so that she does not get hurt. She says that “anytime me I see them, I just go the other direction on purpose”. They may be our new urban co-dwellers but at the end of the day, they are still bears.

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