PAWS Magazine

Issue 57, Spring 2004

Lost and Alone

On January 13, 2004, the PAWS Wildlife Center received a special delivery- an orphaned black bear cub- from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). All that could be seen of the "delivery" when she arrived was her frightened face as she peered out from behind the bars of her transport carrier. The more than 4-hour car ride likely seemed an eternity to this fuzzy yearling, and she had no idea what to expect when the ride was over. She needn’t have worried though. Her arrival brought the total number of bears that PAWS has worked with to 43, so she was being delivered into very experienced hands. When she was admitted, she received the case number 04-0065.

It is unusual for PAWS to receive a bear in January, as they are normally holed up in winter dens at that time of year. Bear 04-0065 should have been sleeping the winter away in a den with her mother, but something had obviously interrupted that, or prevented it entirely. On the verge of starvation, she was captured by ODFW agents in late December when she wandered into the small town of Clatskanie, near Portland. ODFW transferred the bear to PAWS because there are currently no bear rehabilitation facilities in Oregon. Bear 04-0065 will be cared for at the PAWS Wildlife Center with the goal of returning her to Oregon for an April release.

On January 13th, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife truck, with a very strong transport carrier in the back, pulled into the PAWS parking lot.

Inside the carrier, a furry being waited patiently to find out what was to become of her.

An Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife agent (foreground), and PAWS Wildlife Department Veterinarian John Huckabee prepare to unload the carrier.

The carrier was placed in the outdoor runs area— a series of cement walled cages that are connected to one another by small doorways. Each section of caging can be closed off using a sliding metal door. This setup allows PAWS staff to close the bear off in one area while they clean in another, and helps to limit the contact between the bear and her human caregivers.

The bear was released into the runs cages. She was extremely nervous at first, and she cautiously investigated her new surroundings. For the first day, the cages were sparsely furnished. This made it easier to capture and tranquilize the cub the following morning for her physical examination.

Food is scattered about the cage, and it is often hidden to encourage the bear’s natural foraging behaviors. Fish are placed in her water pool and mealworms are placed in crevices in logs. Without some form of enrichment, bears are likely to become bored and/or depressed while in captivity.

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