PHOTOS: Rescuers Find Mama Bear With Her Cubs at the Bottom of Connecticut Storm Drain

by Caitlin Berard

When residents of a Simsbury, Connecticut, neighborhood were awoken by a strange wail ripping through the air of an otherwise still night, they were unsure (and a little terrified) of what they would find, should they venture outside. To their surprise, it was a black bear, frantic from spending the night trapped in a nearby storm drain.

“When we put a flashlight down there, it was a tagged bear looking up at us,” Scott Conrad, a Simsbury resident told WFSB. “Which is the last thing you expect to see.”

It appeared that the bear had wandered into the drainage system from a stream in the area. And, unfortunately, it had traveled too far to find its way out. To make matters worse, it was a mama bear, whose two cubs were trapped in the watery pipes below.

Residents called animal rescuers to the scene, including both local and state environmental police officers and DEEP state biologists, who quickly went to work to free the bears.

Police Officers, Biologists Worked to Free the Trapped Animals

They first attempted to lower a log and a ladder into the drain, hoping the mama and her cubs would simply climb out. The unexpected objects only frightened the bears further, however, and they retreated further into the pipes.

On the second attempt, the bears didn’t run, but the mama bear still didn’t trust her would-be rescuers. Rather than approach the log, she only shielded her babies from the potential danger.

Desperate to bring the mama bear above ground, Jason Hawley, a DEEP biologist, expertly mimicked a bear cub call from the street. Hearing what she thought was a cub in need, the devoted mother came back to the drain, peering out to search for the baby bear.

“[Mothers] have such a strong maternal instinct that they’ll respond to it,” Hawley explained to the Hartford Courant. “Even though she had both of her cubs with her.”

Anticipating this reaction, rescuers at the scene had retreated to a safe distance – not for themselves but so the mama bear would feel safe enough to help her cubs up.

The Mama Bear and Her Cubs Escaped the Drain Unharmed

With the log and ladder still in place, the first cub climbed his way out, his mother waiting eagerly on the street. The second cub was too afraid to come out on his own, so the mama bear climbed back into the drain and lifted him to safety.

Once the mama bear had both babies above ground once more, the three ran back to the woods. And though the bears will likely remember it as a terrifying encounter with humans and their overwhelming underground tunnels, the rescue workers will always look back on the event as a great success, as they should.

“We kind of chased them away from the storm drain before they could go back down,” Hawley recalled. “Then we were able to cover it up and it was a happy ending.”

Libby Lord, a local photographer on the scene, detailed the entire event on Facebook, including a number of pictures she snapped of the heroic rescue.