A bear with a plastic pickle bucket on his head had been wandering the area since early June but was recently caught, "de-bucketed" and released again by Department of Natural Resources officials.
The bear was sighted in Dawsonville, Dahlonega, Cleveland, Clarkesville and Helen throughout June and July. But each time workers from the state’s Wildlife Resources Division would respond, the bear would be gone.
"We were originally notified from Dawson County, and there was public concern about his well-being," said Scott Frazier, wildlife biologist for the division.
"From that point forward, we’d get numerous calls every time it crossed paths with a human being."
Because the bear was easily identifiable, division members could track the bear.
"Literally, from the time we got the call and drove to the site, he’d be gone," Frazier said. "We think he was probably exceedingly hungry and thirsty and would move on quickly."
The search dragged on for four weeks until officers took a second trip to Cleveland and worked with police to keep it in one patch of woods.
Wildlife technicians David Shattuck and Frank Manning tranquilized the bear and removed the bucket. They then released him near a creek in Union County.
"The real puzzler to us is how he lived without water," Frazier said. "We can understand four weeks without food, but most animals can’t live two or three days without water. We assume he somehow submerged his head until water leaked in around the neck. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have made it."
Most area bear complaints come when the animals have access to a food source. For residents in White, Lumpkin, Towns, Union and Fannin counties, any type of seed, compost or trash could attract bears regularly, he said.
"They very quickly associate a food source with a spot and camp out there," Frazier said. "Some people at temporary rental cabins do things they wouldn’t do at home and have a tendency to stick trash on the porch until they leave. It ultimately creates a problem at the establishment for the next person who stays."