Black bear cubs are born late January or early February. Although the female may remain in the hibernation den until May, circumstances can bring orphaned cubs to us as early as March. Cubs remain in the rehab program until December or January. We start them in hibernation here and take them to dens in the mountains to finish hibernation. Each year we usually have several cubs who are orphaned during late summer or early fall. Frequently, they do not have enough weight to survive the five to six months of hibernation. Those cubs will continue to eat through the winter months, perhaps hibernating for a month or so and will be released in late spring. Some years we are feeding orphaned cubs throughout the year.
Generally, cubs wean yhemselves at five months old. Until then they are fed a special formula which replaces mother's milk. It is a specialty item and requires a special order. When they are ready to try solid food along with the formula, we feed them a variety of soft foods in preparation for the day they will be weaned. Once they no longer need or want formula, the bears eat dry and canned dog food, fruits of all kinds, vegetation, fish, acorns, and insects. Fall arrivals may be so underweight that we will provide formula again to help their body recover from starvation. The formula has brought more than one cub back from the edge of starvation. For that reason, we need to keep a supply of formula on hand twelve months of the year.
The food items needed are very specific and depend on the age of the cubs. It costs approximately $1000 to feed and care for each cub during the eight to fourteen months they are in the rehab program. Over time, we have determined the food best suited for the cubs and with the least amount of waste. Cubs, like kids, love to play with their food.