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Archive for Sunday, January 5, 1992

IT WAS IN THE BAG

January 5, 1992

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Local law enforcement people and game wardens drew flak about 25 years ago after the Incident of the Baldwin Bear, but at least they didn't wind up as embarrassed as a similar group the past year in Keithville, La.

A 175-pound black bear was treed in neighboring Baldwin in 1966. Despite all sorts of humane efforts to get the animal down, and out of harm's way, including the use of tranquilizer darts, the hostile bear finally had to be killed for fear it would become a menace. There wasn't quite the furor then that there might be in today's more sentimental ecological climate, but there still were animal-lovers throughout the region who were clearly disturbed by the handling of the case.

But at least there was a bona fide cause for all the activity in Baldwin. That wasn't the way it turned out for the Louisiana counterparts during 1991.

What appeared to be a sizable black bear was sighted high in a pine tree at Keithville, and law enforcement people, game wardens, wildlife activists and veterinarians were summoned. For some eight hours, often in darkness, there were constant efforts to get the ``animal'' down, including the firing of tranquilizer missiles to lessen the impact and stress of capture. Bypassing the advice of some to use a rifle to kill the creature, officials chose to chop down the tree.

That done, they were shocked to find only a heavily sedated black garbage bag that had become lodged in the upper reaches of the tree, giving the distinct impression of the presence of a bear.

While the Baldwin ``rescuers'' may have had their ears burned, at least their faces weren't as crimson, with thorough justification, as those of the Louisiana ``environmentalists.''

Wonder if their humiliation was too much to bear.

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