Dec 11, 2009
Three orphaned bear cubs have been released back into the wild after spending five months at Idaho Black Bear Rehab (IBBR)’s pioneering centre.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources brought the tiny cubs to non-profit IBBR which is celebrating 20 years of successful rehabilitation and release of black bears.
Funded by WSPA, IBBR has been providing rehabilitation services for bears from seven other states, including Utah. State fish and wildlife agencies bring bears to IBBR because of the lack of suitable facilities and rehabilitators in their own states.
“Utah cubs are some of the smartest bears I've handled over the years. When we have Utah cubs on site, I watch everything like a hawk. If there is anything they can undo, break, open up, or rearrange we can count on that happening. In fact, if it's ‘Utah Proof’, I know the other bears won't get to it,” laughs Sally Maughan, founder of IBBR.
The three cubs arrived weighing between 10-13 pounds. The females are named Malihini (Hawaiian for "guest”), Pulama (Hawaiian for "to cherish"), and the male Ikaika (Hawaiian for "strong").
Ikaika developed a very strong relationship with a little female cub from Oregon called Mahalo, playing together all the time.
“Although bears do develop friendships just like humans, I have only seen that strong of a bond twice in my 20 years. In fact, when watching them on the monitor, I will see them walking in tandem so closely and perfectly aligned at times that you think they must be connected at the ribs,” explains Sally.
Sally admitted that when the Utah bears left, it was a confusing and upsetting day for Mahalo who will have to adjust and play with the other two Idaho cubs. Their release date is scheduled for later this year.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources came to pick up the three bears and transported them back to Utah where they were tagged and released.
Founded in 1989 by Sally Maughan, IBBR has provided direct care for over 200 orphaned and injured bears; over 96 per cent being released back into the wild.
“In 1989, very few states were involved with bear cub rehabilitation, and fewer still had programmes designed to prepare bears for life in the wild. By working closely with state, national, and world-wide bear experts, Maughan has developed a successful rehabilitation programme,” says Victor Watkins, Wildlife Adviser at WSPA.
A three-year joint study by WSPA and IBBR proves that orphaned bear cubs raised in captivity can develop into wild animals capable of surviving on their own. The study concludes that the key elements for a successful reintroduction into the wild appear to be:
• opportunity to socialise with other bear cubs during early development in rehabilitation;
• adequate high quality habitat in release area;
• minimal contact with humans for 7–10 days after release.
IBBR provides all three of those criteria for their cubs.