Ross Johnston stands with the pickle jar Thursday.
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A jar discovered with bear fur inside near Lambert Island Thursday morning matches one seen stuck on the head of a black bear in a photograph taken Tuesday.
Ministry of Natural Resources conservation officer Ross Johnston said the jar was found by a canoeist less than a kilometre away from the bear’s last known location.
Johnston said either the bear freed himself from the jar or met an unfortunate end when he jumped into the lake and the jar filled with water.
"He may be at the bottom of Lake Superior or he could be in a blueberry patch right now," Johnston said. "We’ll go with the happy ending but we may never know."
If the bear has survived, Johnston said the 60-pound mammal, which should be about 80 pounds given his age, still has plenty of time to fatten up on blue berries and raspberries before winter. The biggest problem for the bear is going without water for two weeks.
"The biggest thing is for him to get hydrated if he hasn’t been able to drink for the last two weeks That’s serious but I’m sure he can recover any weight that he’s lost," Johnston said.
The bear’s two-week ordeal from Hurkett to Lambert Island made received international attention. The bear’s story was featured in newspapers across the globe, and television and radio from CNN to CBC Radio’s As it Happens Wednesday.
MNR officials and the general public searched for the bear but couldn’t find him. Johnston said the plan was to get within 20 metres so they could tranquillize the bear and remove the jar. Because the bear could see shapes and movement through the opaque pickle jar, Johnston said it was tough to catch him.
The MNR also set up a trap but Johnston said they didn’t think it would catch him.
"It would have been difficult to sneak up on him to dart him," Johnston said. "And he never would’ve gone in a trap. We set one but we didn’t hold out much hope that he would go in it."
Johnston said he’s had to tranquillize deer to remove electrical boxes from their feet. The conservation officer also said he’s witnessed a deer with an arrow through its head and skunks stuck in jam jars. Until now he said he’s never spotted a bear with a jar stuck on its head.
Johnston said if people would’ve recycled the jar instead of throwing it in the dump, the event wouldn’t have happened in the first place.
"I think it could have been avoided," Johnston said. "It’s another really good reason to recycle…he got this on his head at the dump so if it’s in the dump it shouldn’t be there it should be recycled."
Although there was a claw mark in the jar, Johnston, who has seen bears tear apart plastic gas cans, said he’s surprised the bear couldn’t claw his way out of the flimsy pickle jar. He speculates the bear couldn’t find an edge for leverage.
Johnston added that he’s amazed the bear went for two weeks and travelled from Hurkett to Lambert Island with the jar on his head.
If the public sees a bear with a ring of fur missing from around his neck, then that's likely him, Johnston said.
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