James Marsh, the principal of Zela Elementary School in Summersville, West Virginia was performing his usual duties Monday morning when he received the surprise of his life.
One of those duties is to go unlock the dumpster out by the parking lot. A mundane task to be sure, until he got the lock open and a black bear jumped out.
“You throw stuff in a dumpster,” Marsh told WSAZ News. “Things go in it, but you just don’t expect anything that big to come out of it.”
He added, “I have not been that close to one, and I doubt that many people have,” referring to the bear-in-a-box.
Video of the wild encounter has gone viral on social media after the Nicholas County Board of Education shared it on Facebook with the description, “Who says principals don’t deserve hazard pay?”
“I didn’t even get to open the lid,” Marsh said. “It just popped out of there like a jack-in-the box. It let out a pretty loud growl or roar actually, and that was about the most intimidating thing of the whole event.”
The crazy (crazier?) thing is the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources had just given the elementary school the lock for the dumpster last week after a bear had gotten inside.
Marsh said the bear must have somehow gotten past the dumpster latch to get and then once inside couldn’t figure out how to get back out.
“I think both of us were equally surprised,” Marsh added. “When you’re that close, they don’t seem that friendly.”
Of course, everyone, including the students, immediately wanted to see the crazy video.
“The students at the school, they wanted to see it, and I showed it to all of them,” he said. “They thought it was just hilarious. I had a couple little girls tell me when you see a bear, you’re not supposed to run.”
Marsh also said that after the bear encounter the West Virginia DNR returned to the school to make it even tougher for bears to get into the dumpster.