DENVER (Reuters) - Police in Colorado rescued a bear cub whose head was stuck in a large plastic tub of protein powder, giving the cub a ride in the back of a cruiser before tranquilizing her so she could be freed.

The Colorado Springs Police Department said three officers responded to a call about the trapped animal before dawn on Tuesday, but were unable to remove the tub.

"The quick-witted officers were able to get the cub into the back seat of a patrol car and brought her to nearby fire station 3, where a Department of Wildlife Ranger sedated the bear," the police department said in a statement.

It published a photo of the small cub riding in the cruiser, sitting under the rear window, her head stuck in the tub. ((http://bit.ly/1gUhMBa))

Another photo showed her lying sedated on the ground later, her head free, alongside two beaming police officers.

"The bear cub was tagged and released ... in hopes that she will be reunited with mama bear," the police department said.

(Reporting by Daniel Wallis in Denver; Editing by Lisa Lambert)