Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Seriously?!

May 2, 2012

Bouncy houses cushion bear’s fall from tree

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — When a black bear climbed a tree in a central Arkansas city and refused to come down, authorities turned to unconventional rescue tools: bouncy houses.

Foster the Bear — named for the residential street where he holed up in a tree — wouldn’t budge from his branch Monday. So, authorities turned to a local hardware store owner who rents inflatable houses and castles for children’s birthday parties.

They asked him to set up two of the bouncy contraptions beneath the tree. Then, wildlife officials shot the bear with tranquilizer darts.

“He would slide to one side, and we’re like, ‘Oh, oh, oh, he’s going to come down, he’s going to come down,’ “ Conway police spokeswoman La Tresha Woodruff said. “And then he’d balance himself again.”

Foster finally passed out, but he still didn’t come down from his perch. Eventually, firefighters turned a hose on him until he tumbled down onto the edge of the inflatables below.

The bear, about a year old, wasn’t hurt, though he did land in between a blow-up castle and the other inflatable house — kind of “like if you get something stuck between the wall and the bed,” as Woodruff put it.

Spectators who had been watching the bear in the tree for hours cheered and clapped, Woodruff said.

“Foster was fine, just knocked out,” she said.

Wildlife officials plan to release the bear somewhere in the Ozark Mountains.

Police said the bear’s big-city adventure in Conway, about 30 miles north of Little Rock, started before he moseyed up the tree on Foster Drive. Someone had spotted the bear in a different tree on a nearby street before dawn Monday.

“Somehow, he crawled down out of the tree without them seeing him and got away,” Woodruff said.

Then, he managed to climb into another tree and inspire a Twitter feed, where someone posted updates — from the bear’s perspective — into the night.

“You ever have that dream where you’re falling and then you wake up with a dart in your butt?” one post read.

Another tweet summed up the bear’s day out.

“The cops want to shoot me,” one post read. “Fire dept says I’m too big for their cat getter-downer and 75 townies are below cheering my name.”

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