With the sighting of a black bear in Hot Springs earlier summer and the discussion about the history of bears in the area that ensued, former Fall River County Game, Fish and Parks Conservation Officer Owen Meadows recalled an unusual incident in which he was involved that took place 52 years ago in April 1971.
The tale involved a “pet” black bear escaping from its owner and eventually finding itself in the local drunk tank until it could be transferred to a more suitable home. The photo above shows the bear asleep in the drunk tank after getting tranquilized by then-veterinarian Paul Wittenburg.
Below is the entire article from the April 8, 1971, Hot Springs Star detailing the events....
Wednesday, a contingent of wild animals, two bears and two mountain lions, arrived in Hot Springs. Other than creating an unusual sight for local people no great fuss occurred.
That changed Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. and set off a chain of action not foreseen earlier. One of the bears got out of the cage in which the group was confined.
The animal hightailed it up the nearest tree and it took quite crew of volunteers to recapture it. In the process Sheriff Jack Manke got too close to the business end of the bear and I received a bite on his right thumb. He was treated at Southern Hills General.
The bear was roped and tranquilized and kept in the drunk tank at the city jail. Later it was transferred to the Custer Park zoo where it will be observed to determine if it is rabid.
Grant Beck, 35, who had the animals in custody, was arraigned before Justice William Emery on a charge of impounding animal without proper care and attention. He entered an innocent plea and was released on a bond of $150.
Beck failed to appear as scheduled and forfeited the bond. He was later brought in a warrant and fined $100 and $15.65 costs on the charge. In addition, similar charges were placed in the case of the other bear and the two lions.
Emery sentenced him to a fine of $100 and 30 days in jail with 20 days suspended if Beck could produce a title of ownership of the animals.
During the early morning episode, the bear was probably the most scared of all participants. Unless, that is, there were some drunks in the tank with the bear.