WATCH | Dumpster diving bear startles elementary school principal

Principal shares what the experience was like
The principal has been told he runs pretty fast for someone his age.
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 4:52 PM EDT
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UPDATE 5/1/23 @ 10 p.m.

NICHOLAS COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A much too-close-for-comfort look at a wild animal was caught on camera.

James Marsh is the principal at Zela Elementary in Summersville.

“You throw stuff in a dumpster,” Marsh said. “Things go in it, but you just don’t expect anything that big to come out of it.”

Monday morning, he was unlocking the dumpster outside the school when he suddenly realized he was not alone.

“I have not been that close to one, and I doubt that many people have,” Marsh said.

A security camera recorded the incident, which has gone viral. As Marsh is in the process of opening the dumpster, a black bear pokes its head out.

“I didn’t even get to open the lid,” Marsh, who’s been principal at the school in Nicholas County five years, 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.”

When Marsh sees the bear, he takes off running. The bear climbs out of the dumpster and runs away in the opposite direction.

The principal says he was told by people who watched the clip that for his age, he’s a pretty fast runner.

“I think both of us were equally surprised,” Marsh said. “When you’re that close, they don’t seem that friendly.”

The West Virginia DNR had given the elementary the lock for the dumpster last week after a bear had gotten into it one night, but it turned out the lock wasn’t enough of a deterrent.

Marsh says the incident made getting back into the Monday routine impossible, as staff and students watched the 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 says the DNR returned to the school Monday to make modifications to the dumpster to hopefully prevent this from happening again.

“We want that guy to go find his meals someplace else,” Marsh said.

The nickname for the elementary is the Mustangs. They’re talking about getting it changed to the Black Bears.


NICHOLAS COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - “Who says principals don’t deserve hazard pay?” That was the caption of this video posted on the Nicholas County Board of Education’s Facebook page on Monday of a bear jumping from a dumpster at Zela Elementary School.

As you can see in the above video, the principal at the school was removing a lock from the dumpster when the bear jumped out and took off.

According to school administration, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources gave the principal the dumpster lock because employees have been having issues with bears dumpster diving.

School officials say the principal was unlocking the dumpster for the cooks so they could throw items away.

According to school officials, the principal of Zela Elementary was unlocking the dumpster when...
According to school officials, the principal of Zela Elementary was unlocking the dumpster when he was surprised by the uninvited guest.

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