The bear barely had a chance.
But when a boating family encountered a young bear black struggling to stay afloat with a plastic jug stuck on its head in the middle of Marsh-Miller Lake in Wisconsin Saturday, they pulled up alongside it, removed the jar and watched it safely swim ashore.
Tricia Hurt posted video of the incident to Facebook Sunday. She and her family found the critter with what was described as a cheese ball tub stuck on its head as it pawed its away across relatively calm water.
“We got a bear here — poor thing’s got a tub on its head,” she says in the video as the boat makes its first pass.
She then instructs Brady Hurt, who remains off camera for the duration of the two-minute rescue, to reposition the boat so her husband, Brian Hurt, can try to remove the plastic container again.
As they pass by and Brian unsuccessfully tries to pull it off, the camera angle shifts and viewers can see that the jug is filling up with water around the bear’s face.
Brady turns the boat in a wide circle so Brian can have another shot. He grabs the plastic with two hands and finally frees the bear.
The bear shakes off its head, takes a breath and starts to paddle toward the shoreline.
“We saved our little bear!” Tricia says, as the family can be heard celebrating.
The video ends a few seconds later, but it made its way to land in one piece, according to her Facebook post.
Hurt’s post earned thousands of reactions, prompted more than 2,000 comments and almost 20,000 shares. Millions of people watched it.
“Never dreamt we would ever do this in our lifetime,” she wrote in the caption.
Marsh-Miller Lake is in Bloomer, Wis., just north of Eau Claire.
According to Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources, the state’s black bear population is “thriving” at more than 24,000.
Due to population growth, sightings have increased in the lower two-thirds of the state, according to authorities. Their normal range is in the northernmost third of the state.
Almost 120,000 hunters applied for just over 11,000 black bear permits in 2019, according to wildlife authorities. The waitlist to get one ranges from one to 11 years.