EAST WINDSOR, N.J. (CBS) – Crews were able to safely rescue a black bear that got stuck after climbing a large tree near the New Jersey Turnpike Friday morning.

The incident happened near Exit 8 of the Turnpike in East Windsor, Mercer County.

Police said the black bear was first spotted on the shoulder of the toll road shortly after 8 a.m.

A call to save a bear stuck in a tree is not a call Cranbury Fire Department’s Assistant Chief Jeremy Watkins and Hightstown Fire Department’s Deputy Chief Scott Jenkins have ever gotten. But together with a wildlife official and a New Jersey state police officer, they answered the call prepared to do what it takes to save the bear.

Assistant Chief Watkins said, “The initial plan was to tranquilize the bear from the ground. We had a bunch of people standing around the tree with a net prepared to catch the bear.”

The bear fell asleep alright but instead of falling onto the net, it got stuck in the tree.

“So we took the bucket truck. We lifted the bucket truck up towards the bear and as we went up we had to cut the branches of the tree down,” Deputy Chief Jenkins said.

Authorities estimate the bear was about 50 feet above the ground. So crews brought in a 100 feet-tall bucket truck to get to the bear. Officials say by the time they reached the bear, it was still squirming so another shot of tranquilizer had to be used before pulling the bear out of the tree and into the bucket.

“He was spread out. We had him on this side and shuffled him in here and he took up most of the inside of the bucket,” Assistant Chief Watkins explained.

Once on the ground, the bear weighed in at 297 pounds. Authorities say the male bear looked to be about 2 or 3 years old and received no injuries from the rescue which took about two and a half hours.

Deputy Chief Jenkins explained, “Yes it was a surprise. You don’t get trained to take bears out of trees but saving a life is saving a life and with the combined efforts that’s what we did today.”

Indeed another life was saved. As for the bear, authorities say the bear has since been tagged and released back into the Assunpink Wildlife Preserve.

Reported by Elizabeth Hur, CBS 3

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