Some quick thinking and a sturdy rope saved a young black bear in Glenwood Springs, Colo., from certain death this week.
The 2 year-old bear had its head stuck in an empty bucket of cheese puffs and could not free itself — meaning it also couldn’t eat, said Perry Will, area wildlife manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. But as area residents spotted the bear and notified wildlife officials, the critter always scurried away before help could arrive.
Then Jim Hawkins, 66, took matters into his own hands. He resolved to wrestle the bear and attempt to free it from the cheese puff bucket of doom.
“He essentially looked like he had a space helmet on,” Hawkins told The Post.
“I decided the only way we’d save this bear’s life was to keep him in one place until wildlife officers could arrive.”
He left a pair of work gloves and some rope in a convenient place and waited.
On Wednesday, a resident saw the bear walking on the side of the road a few miles away and alerted local authorities, but the bear changed course and walked right through a bed and breakfast’s backyard — which coincidentally, belonged to Hawkins.
Now was the time to act.
Hawkins lassoed the bear around the midsection — “And then it was kind of like a rodeo for a while,” he said.
Until, that is, the bear realized it had a better chance of getting away by attacking its rope-pulling adversary.
The rope Hawkins held went slack, and the bear came charging at him full tilt, its bucket leading the way. The two rolled on the ground for several minutes, until the bear ran up a tree and Hawkins tied the rest of the rope to the trunk. He needed stitches for some of wounds in his forearms afterward.
“I thought he couldn’t see very well out of that jar, but once he started coming at me, I could sure tell he knew where he was going,” Hawkins said.
Finally, Hawkins called authorities. Fortunately, the bear’s teeth were blocked off by the cheese puff container.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials tranquilized the bear and lowered him the the ground. They removed the cheese puff jar and relocated the bear in a less populated area 12 miles away.
All in a day’s work, said Hawkins, a retired Denver firefighter and current amateur folk singer.
Hawkins said he has been in “chaotic situations before,” but that “this probably isn’t the worst of them.”
It’s also not the first time Hawkins as fended off a bear, though the others were more garden variety: chasing one away from a dumpster, scaring another out of a shed. And if this was a big bear, he wouldn’t have gone near it, he said.
He only does “crazy” things if they’re calculated.
“I’m a 200 pound man. That’s a 100 pound bear,” he said. “This was a little bear with a big problem.”