Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Little bear cub doing just fine

By Katie Murdoch
Herald writer
A baby black bear weighing less than 4 pounds is being cared for at PAWS in Lynnwood.


A baby black bear weighing less than 4 pounds is being cared for at PAWS in Lynnwood.

LYNNWOOD — One of the smallest bear cubs at PAWS Wildlife Center is getting stronger and proving to staff she has a strong will – and a bit of an attitude.
The orphaned cub weighs less than 4 pounds and is small enough to be scruffed like a puppy.
The cub, referred to as patient number 12-0790, is gaining weight and is eating out of her dish alone. Cubs are typically born in January. A cub her age should weigh between 10 to 12 pounds. She is the 78th bear to be rehabilitated at PAWS.
“She is a ball of fire,” said Dr. John Huckabee, a PAWS wildlife veterinarian.
And although her teeth aren’t fully developed yet, the cub could leave a mark.
The combination of her claws and increasing strength means the cub will soon have to be immobilized before she’s moved, Huckabee said. For now, she’s small enough to be handled with gloves and protective gear.
PAWS staff hopes to rerelease the cub next spring. The location of her release will be decided by the state. However, she likely will be released near where she was found. A lot of black bears are from the coastal slopes of the Cascades, staff said.
Ideally, cubs spend their first winter in a den with their mother. This cub will spend it rehabilitating at PAWS.
“They’re ready to be on their own after their first winter,” Huckabee said.
She was brought into the nonprofit on May 19 after being rescued by the Oregon Department of Wildlife. She and her brother were found orphaned on a highway near Corvallis, Ore. Both cubs were emaciated and dehydrated. The male cub didn’t survive.
“She is doing great,” said Jennifer Convy, PAWS wildlife director. “She’s already old enough to be afraid of humans and she has a bit of an attitude.”
Loggers working nearby had been watching the cubs for a few weeks to see if they had a mother. The loggers notified the Department of Wildlife. The cubs likely were looking for food, which is how they wandered near the highway, PAWS staff said. It’s unclear why the cubs were separated from their mother.
PAWS has a hands-off policy with animals as they are less likely to survive once they become comfortable around humans.
“We walk a pretty tight rope,” Huckabee said. “It’s critical they don’t trust people for their survival.”
Staff refrains from talking to or naming the animals and only touches them when giving medical care.
“They’re stressed when they’re in captivity and they’re especially stressed when predators are around, like humans,” Huckabee said.
That’s not to say bears are defenseless. Humans smell good to the bears and they can’t mask their scent, Huckabee said.
Further stressing animals out is connecting humans to painful anesthesia shots that are necessary to sedate animals before moving them.
“It’s negative for them when humans show up,” Huckabee said. “They’re cute and adorable but they don’t appreciate being touched and handled.”