As many as 40 to 50 people spent most of a night trying to rescue what appeared to be a black bear caught 50 to 60 feet up a pine tree so they could move it to a wildlife area.

Deputy sheriffs, game wardens and wildlife biologists were in the crowd that gathered for nearly eight hours on Norman Gordon's farm in northwestern Louisiana. A veterinarian fired tranquilizer darts at the critter in an effort to get it down.Deputies and wildlife agents strung a net to catch the bear when the drugs took hold and it fell from the treetop. Then they planned to release it into the wild - probably on the Tensas National Wildlife Refuge.

But when the people finally chopped the tree down early Thursday, they discovered they had been trying to rescue a dart-riddled garbage bag.

Bears are so scarce in Louisiana that they have been proposed for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.