Twin bear cubs arrive at PAWS after mom dies on I-90
Twin bear cubs, who were orphaned after their mother was killed on Interstate 90 this weekend, are now at an animal-welfare center in Lynnwood where they will stay for 10 months before being released into the wild.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The twin bear cubs arrived at the animal-welfare center in Lynnwood on Tuesday, anxious, stressed and more than a little frightened.
They hurled their small bodies against the kennel doors and huffed in protest. Caretakers covered their cages with sheets and placed them in a quiet area to soothe their fears.
The new digs at the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) will take some getting used to for these eight-month-old cubs, who have spent their lives outdoors, foraging for food by their mother's side.
When she was struck and killed this weekend on Interstate 90, the cubs were captured by wildlife officers Monday and transported to PAWS the next day. They will stay at the center until late May or early June before being returned to the wild.
"They are way too small to make it on their own," said Sgt. Kim Chandler, an officer with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Over the weekend, campers at the Denny Creek campground near Snoqualmie Pass called the department to report bear sightings. Callers spotted a mom and her two cubs "wandering around, tipping over coolers," Chandler said. Then on Sunday, the department got word of a dead bear on I-90. Two cubs were seen hovering near the mother's body, Chandler said.
An officer went to the campsite Monday afternoon, and laid a trap with sugary doughnuts. Soon, both bear cubs — who had been taught to look for food at campsites by their mother — fell for the bait and were captured by the officer, Chandler said.
After arriving at PAWS, they were anesthetized and given thorough examinations. Doctors ran blood work, took X-rays, and did a head-to-toe checkup, said Kevin Mack, naturalist at the center.
There were no signs of injury on the 40-pound male. But the female, who weighed in at 24 pounds, had a small laceration on her right ear and a ruptured left ear drum, Mack said.
It's unclear how she got the wounds, but doctors will monitor her.
Brother and sister will be kept in an outdoor "run" — a series of cages connected with sliding metal doors — that they can move through, he said. Everything possible will be done to minimize their contact with humans.
So much so, that when the center gets orphaned bear cubs that haven't been weaned, which usually happens around three months of age, a caretaker will don a fuzzy, full-body disguise and feed the cub with a bottle, Mack said.
"We do everything we can to keep them isolated from people ... so they won't seek a bond with us," he said.
For these brother-and-sister cubs, Mack said, the goal is to get them to develop food-finding skills that will prepare them for surviving in the wild.
The bears will get rotting logs that they can tear apart to find larvae, and plants to chew on. Even though the cubs were scared to be in their new environment, they quickly showed signs of normal behavior, such as ripping a fern apart and socializing with each other, Mack said.
These are the third and fourth bear cubs turned over to the center for rehabilitation this year, he said. Overall, the center has helped more than 50 bears make their way back to the wild. Some came in as small as three pounds, he said.
Wildlife officer Chandler said that run-ins with bears — and the fallout of orphaned cubs — is an entirely human problem.
"This whole thing was started by folks not paying attention to what they're doing and leaving their food out," he said. "People have to be bear smart."
Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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