Co-op News

Three Bears in a Bucket Truck

By Derrill Holly | ECT Staff Writer Published: June 19th, 2012

Electric cooperative staffers in two states had recent close encounters with black bears. Three bear cubs were treated to bucket truck rides and a fourth wound up in a co-op Christmas tree in the same week. But in both cases, the outcomes worked out well for people and animals alike.

A yearling black bear cub wandered into Pickens, S.C., and climbed up the Himalayan cedar tree outside the headquarters of Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative. (Photo By: Blue Ridge EC)

A yearling black bear cub wandered into Pickens, S.C., and climbed up the Himalayan cedar tree outside the headquarters of Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative. (Photo By: Blue Ridge EC)

Line superintendent Bryan Roper was returning from lunch June 5, when a consumer-member stopped him outside the Pickens, S.C., headquarters of Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative.

“She said, ‘A bear just ran across the front yard of the co-op and ran up that tree,’” said Roper. “When I looked up the tree, there really was a bear, about 15 feet up.”

The Himalayan cedar is a Pickens’ Main Street landmark. Topping more than 60 feet, it has served as the co-op’s Christmas tree for decades.

Members visiting the co-op to conduct business came out to watch, along with some staffers.

Police were called, and within 90 minutes, game wardens showed up with a cage, tranquilizer gun and other gear.

“The bear looked completely bewildered,” said Ann Garren, the co-op’s customer service supervisor. “It was looking at us, and we were looking at him.”

Wardens planned to catch the bear in a tarp, once it was tranquilized, but it tumbled to the ground instead. Still, officials examined the animal and declared it healthy, Garren said.

“They loaded it in a cage, and drove it back into the mountains, about 25 miles away.”

Bear sightings are up in South Carolina’s Upcountry and elsewhere in the Appalachian range. In Pennsylvania, a line crew from Somerset Rural Electric Cooperative recently responded to a call after state game wardens trapped an adult female bear near a roadside eatery, June 8.

A Pennsylvania game commissioner uses a co-op bucket truck to retrieve one of three bear cubs from a tree. (Photo By: Somserset REC)

A Pennsylvania game commissioner uses a co-op bucket truck to retrieve one of three bear cubs from a tree. (Photo By: Somserset REC)

“Her three cubs had gotten up a tree, and they did not want to remove the mother from the area without them,” said Carline Mitchell, the Somerset-based co-op’s director of marketing and member services.

The mother was accustomed to foraging in the restaurant’s trash bins. The cubs, believed to have been born in January, were much too young to survive on their own. The three game wardens planned to move the bears deeper into the Allegheny Mountains.

“Our linemen pulled the truck up close to the tree, helped a game commissioner into a harness and safety gear, and placed him inside the bucket,” said Mitchell. “He had a snare pole to grab the cubs.”

After several attempts, the cubs were snared and lowered to the ground one at a time, said Mitchell. “There was a female and two males. They examined and tagged each of them, tranquilized the mother, loaded the cubs in the cage and took them away.”

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