It is estimated that 100,000 black bears live in Alaska, but that’s not the only place these creatures roam. Four orphaned black bear cubs were found shivering and cold underneath the deck of a Nevada house this week. They were rescued and taken to an animal sanctuary.
The owner of the house in Stateline, on Lake Tahoe, said that she had first seen the cubs with their mother under the deck in March. But the four adorable fur balls are without parents after their mother, an 18 year old sow, was found dead from unknown causes.
It is thought that the cubs weigh only seven pounds — officials think they were born sometime in January.
Four cubs at once is something of an anomaly. “Twins are fairly common,” says Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Chris Healy, “three is like wow, but four…”
The age of the Mama bear was also noted as strange — 18 years is well past the usually cub-bearing age for bears. It is thought that the strain of caring for four babies at once may have contributed to her death.
Bears, the bane of many a camper’s experience, can detect odors from toiletries and food from over a mile away. While 82% of fishing trips, and most camping trips, involve more than one person, sometimes numbers aren’t enough to protect from bears. They are also known to follow their noses in semi urban and suburban areas, like Stateline, and investigate the trash situation.
Indeed, it is thought that the quadruplets would have become “juvenile delinquents,” or cubs that are taught by their mothers to forage in the garbage. Healy said that their care at the sanctuary, Animal Ark, will hopefully condition them to become wild bears.
The goal is to prepare the cubs for hibernation and an eventual release into the wild. It will be a particularly difficult challenge since usually cubs arrive at the sanctuary in ones or twos, and in the summer or fall.
“Getting them in the springtime is different,” says Diana Hiibel of Animal Ark. “It’s also a long term commitment. There’s a lot involved in having cubs here this young.”
The cubs will be kept isolated, to help them with their eventual assimilation to the wild. Hiibel said, “We want the bears to have a very good diet that’s going to give them a good edge being released back to the wild. So, we try not to give them processed foods. We give them as close as we can to what would be natural for them.”
Although the little bears no longer have their mother to show them the ropes, the Animal Ark is well-equipped to care for them. In the past few years, 22 orphaned cubs have arrived at the shelter, and 17 were released back into the wild.