Orphaned bear cub likely will make next stop at zoo
A famished 1-year-old little girl who was the subject of much attention Wednesday is doing OK.
Her fate still hasn’t been decided, but it may include living in a zoo.
The dehydrated 36-pound black bear cub, after spending more than a week wandering around Squaw Valley USA looking for food, relaxed a little Thursday at California Fish and Game’s wildlife lab in Rancho Cordova, Calif.
She drank a lot of water and appears to be healthy, according to the state agency.
“We haven’t come to a decision yet what to do with her,” said Capt. Ken Nilsson of Fish and Game. “Because of its age and what it’s been doing, it’s not a suitable candidate for rehabilitation. That means we’ll probably look for a zoo that would take it.”
The bear was the subject of a dispute earlier this week, after, with no mother in sight, she had been hanging around Squaw Valley for days. The Bear Preservation League, a coalition of volunteers who try to educate Lake Tahoe residents about living in a populous bear area, went to Squaw Valley to help the orphan.
Nilsson, over the phone, told league members to try to haze it – or scare it away in order to make it fear humans. However, Ann Bryant, a founding member of the bear group, disagreed. She and other volunteers captured the bear, which is illegal, and drove it to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care in South Lake Tahoe.
Nilsson then drove to the wildlife center and took the bear to Rancho Cordova.
State officials haven’t decided whether there could be repercussions against Bryant and the other participants.
“We’re still getting information about what happened,” Nilsson said. “We don’t have all the facts. We won’t make a decision until we get those.”
However, Nilsson said he did not support the decision to take the bear.
“Our feeling, for the best chance of that bear to live a life as a bear, would be to leave her and haze her away from people,” said Nilsson, who added that the cub was old enough to take care of herself.
Bryant, however, disagrees and says she believes the cub would have died if left in the wild.
“She was dehydrated and very, very emaciated – very hungry,” Bryant said. “There would have been no hope for her. Her fate would have been death, whether by humans or by nature.”
The Bear Preservation League has a unique agreement with Fish and Game, where the California agency calls league members to respond to bear complaints to educate residents about coexisting with the wild animals. The state historically had to kill bears when it responded to complaints.
Nilsson, who worked closely with Bryant to form the first-ever agreement, said he felt like his trust was broken.
“I’m disappointed that what happened, happened,” Nilsson said. “Obviously there was some level of mistrust or I don’t think they would have done that, especially when what they did was against what I wanted done.”
Bryant said she hoped this wouldn’t jeopardize the agreement.
“He was using second-, third- and fourth-hand information,” Bryant said. “I was there, and I thought I should jump in and make a decision based on what was happening on the mountain.
“Hopefully he’ll be able to understand that. He thinks I betrayed him; he thinks I betrayed his agency. But our agency is the Bear Preservation League. We save bears.”
The bear league received no complaints about its action, Bryant said.
Bob Malm, program director of the bear league, said the volunteers were happy with the results of the incident.
“We’d sure like to see her make it,” he said. “I’m sure the folks at Squaw Valley want to see her make it. I’m sure the community would like to see her make it. It looks like Fish and Game feels that way too. I think that’s great.”
No place exists in California where bear cubs can be rehabilitated and introduced back into the wild. Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, where volunteers have nursed injured or ill wild animals back to health for more than 20 years, has long been trying to get the permission and the resources to take care of cubs. Fish and Game is expected to make a decision next month on a pending permit that would allow the Tahoe center to take in up to three orphaned bear cubs at a time.
The wildlife center still needs about $25,000 worth of work completed on a suitable bear cage.
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