A little creative problem-solving went a long way in freeing a bear that found itself in an unusual predicament over the weekend in rural Pierce County.

At about 10:45 a.m. Saturday, May 2, Pierce County authorities received a report of a bear with its head stuck inside a pail.

According to Pierce County sheriff’s Lt. Mike Waltz, deputies and Department of Natural Resources conservation officers arrived on the scene -- just north of Elmwood -- where they found a female bear with an ornamental metal cream can lodged to its head. The can, which had artwork painted on it, was believed to be an area resident’s lawn decoration, Waltz said.

The bear, Waltz explained, was lying on the ground -- apparently fatigued from the awkward episode and a dearth of oxygen. Its cub was spotted nearby in a tree, but took off when "citizen helpers" approached, Waltz said.

The scenario allowed rescuers to tie ropes to the can’s handles, but initial efforts proved unsuccessful.

Rescuers then used an ax to chop holes in the can, allowing the bear to breathe easier, before trying again.

Cooking oil was poured on the bear’s neck and onto the opening of the can.

Waltz described the rest of the procedure: “As the bear regained its strength, it was able to back away from the cream can, which was now tied off to the conservation warden’s truck.”

Off went the can, and off went the bear into the woods toward its cub.