Screenshot of the "Bucket Bear rescue" video.

The Friends, the Video, and the Bear in the Bucket

October 2018 was, like the months immediately preceding it, a seemingly endless march of stressful news stories and increasing political tensions globally as elections loomed in countries around the world. That naturally led a subsection of internet regulars to seek out more uplifting, simple stories, preferably those involving rescuing cute animals.

The Daily Mail got in on the action, confusing readers and viewers by putting up an improbable-but-true story about a group of friends trapping a bear in order to free it from a bucket stuck on its head, obscuring its vision as it wandered around:

Awe-inspiring footage shows a group of men rescuing a 300lb bear after it got it’s head stuck in a bucket for over a month.

The bear, dubbed the bucket bear, had managed to get a bucket stuck around its head and was left panicking, unable to see or eat and roaming the woods in Pennsylvania.

Passersby had seen the bear in distress and desperate to be freed but were afraid to come close to him.

The article was accompanied by a video:

The story received some notoriety when it happened — in 2014. Apparently, a group of friends went looking for the web-famous “Bucket Bear,” which had what was thought to be a bucket impeding its vision, after spotting the cub on a webcam. (The Pennsylvania Game Commission was aware of the bear and had set out traps, but its press secretary, Travis Lau, said: “But we were never able to get there before the bear had moved on. We set a trap, which was kind of a long shot given the bear’s head was covered. That didn’t work either.”)

The Daily Mail story does get a few details wrong. The offending item wasn’t a bucket but a “maxi,” a black rubber airbag that provides cushioning between a tractor and its trailer, and it was’t just one man but a group of friends who sought out the bear after learning about it on social media.

That particular story also gives the impression that it is a fairly recent event, a perception that is heightened by the fact that its text did not include a date at all, which is odd because the last time the publication covered this story, it was fairly accurate:

Hornberger and Eigenbrod had been searching for two hours and were about to call it quits for the day, when they came across the Bucket Bear near the highway.

Hornberger approached it and attempted to wrestle off the rubber container, which turned out to be an air bag that likely broke off a tractor trailer.

The bear slipped out of his grasp and led the group on a 20-minute chase through the woods towards ‘the biggest mud hole in the area,’ as Hornberger described it.