Raising Four Orphaned Bear Cubs for Re-Release - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Raising Four Orphaned Bear Cubs for Re-Release

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Four orphaned bear cubs are in the care of the Animal Ark, four days after being rescued by the Nevada Department of Wildlife. Wildlife officials say the cubs were born right around January 1st and were living underneath someone's deck in the Stateline area of Lake Tahoe.

"You have four orphaned cubs at the same time from the same mother. That is indeed rare," Chris Healy, NDOW spokesman said. "This is a first-time occurrence for us to have that many cubs having to deal with them at the same time."

"It's very unusual, and this early," Diana Hiibel, Animal Ark Co-Founder & Programs Manager said. "We normally don't have cubs this early. It's usually toward the end of summer."

The siblings include two males and two females.  The 3.5 month-old cubs each weigh about seven pounds.  For now, they are living in a den, inside a penned area.

"They're very timid," Hiibel said. "They have lost their mom, and they're frightened."

The cubs' mother was 18 years old, and was treated by NDOW, 12 years ago. The homeowner alerted officials of the bear family in early March. The cubs were tagged and the sow was fitted with a satellite tracking collar. Wildlife officials did a welfare check on the bears, Saturday, when they noticed there wasn't any movement on the tracker. The sow's body was found, slumped over a log. The cause of death is unknown.

"We just knew that we had to do something," Healy said "We just couldn't let four cubs go and let nature take its course because they were living in and amongst human beings."

The cubs are being fed food that mimics their natural diet. Normally, they would still be drinking their mother's milk, but do could be eating some solid foods too.

"They're eating soft foods, making the transition, right now," Hiibel said. "So, they're getting rice cereal, they're getting applesauce. We're thickening up their formula, so they've got a little bit to stick to their tummies."

The goal is to raise the cubs until they are healthy and old enough to be released into the wild, in the late fall, when they will be put into hibernation.

"We will actually put these cubs in an artificial den and then they will emerge from that den next spring and will, hopefully, be wild bears on their own," Healy said.

"They do well," Hiibel said. "They tend to stay in those wild areas and that is a way we can give them a second chance."

The Animal Ark has raised and released 30 bears. While the cubs are being taken care of by humans, officials say it is important that they have as little contact as possible with people, to prevent them from relying on them. The Animal Ark's visitors will not be able to see the cubs, because of that. 

"They are going to be able to give those bears what they deserve, the better chance of becoming wild," Healy said. "We're hoping we're going to have success. We have had success in the past, with operations like this. When you have four of them, that creates a bit of a challenge."

The cubs will probably weigh 60-100 pounds when they are released. By then, they will be eating 12-14 pounds of food per day, and their food will cost about $100 per week, per bear. That is why the Animal Ark is asking for monetary donations, or volunteers to transport the food.

To donate visit: http://animalark.org/memberships/donate/

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