Orphan bears released back into wild
Last April an 18-year-old female bear with four cubs (two males and two females) died of unknown causes on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe. She left the cubs, weighing 7-10 pounds, wondering where their next meal would come from.
Ten months later the orphaned cubs, after skillful rehabbing at the Animal Ark, were released back in to the wild on Wednesday. The operation was originally scheduled for mid-January but the record-setting winter delayed the operation.
The four bear cubs were between 7-10 pounds when they were taken to Animal Ark for rehab and preparation for release back in to the wild. They were placed into hibernation in late autumn. They now are expected to be between 60 and 70 pounds when placed in the artificial dens in the Lake Tahoe backcountry.
The cubs were tranquilized, blindfolded, had cotton balls placed in their ears and hobbled before being taken from Animal Ark by vehicle to the Nevada Division of Forestry facility on East Lake Boulevard in Washoe Valley. From that location the cubs were flown in to the denning sites in pairs.
NDOW used a helicopter to take the bears back in to the denning area where artificial den locations were identified and developed. The cubs were placed in two “Igloo” dog houses with bedding material from their Animal Ark dens placed inside for warmth and so that the den smells like home. Once the bears were placed inside the igloo dens, the enclosures were buried with snow.
The bears will emerge in the spring and be on their own as they try and “make a living” as wild bears. NDOW fit the yearling bears with satellite collars in order to follow their movements over the next couple of years.