Hau Kea

Our New Year’s bear arrived January 4th, 2009 at 11.5 pounds. Her story is a sad and difficult one in which she struggled to survive on her own for a long time. She clearly shows us that whether we succeed or fail to save them in the end, we have to try. Apparently she had been spotted back in September, but they didn’t realize she was an orphan. How she managed to last as long as she did is amazing. It speaks to a bear’s determination to survive. Most of us humans would probably have given up long before she did. We don’t know how she was orphaned, but she is the smallest cub Washington has ever sent us at 11 months old.

The Hawaiian name Hau Kea means snow. She was named that by the Olson family who spotted her and reported the orphaned cub to Fish and Wildlife. Their 11 year old son picked that name when Sally told them IBBR names the cubs Native American or Hawaiian names. She is a bear that had to deal with plenty of snow as the pictures show. She was spotted in the remote mountains on the Entiat River between Lake Chelan and Wenatchee. They said she seemed very weak and lethargic which was to be expected being so underweight. It had snowed about four feet prior to when they spotted her.
Temperatures ranged from 13 below to 20 above.

Rich Beausoleil had already sent us several cubs in 2008 and set out to find this cub the next day. He brought along his bear dog to help track the cub. The dog found the cub within an hour hiding under a fallen tree with branches that protected her and gave her a place to get out of the snow. She was pretty weak, unable to climb very far up a tree. She only put up the obligatory fight, but was too weak to do much.

After the vet check, who rated her a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10, they got her ready for transport. Once again Terri, Larry, & their dog Pearl headed out to pick her up. We put her in the deck enclosure when she arrived and she looked so small in there even though it’s not very big. The first night she ate just the formula, cottage cheese and yogurt. The next day she ate twice as much, but left the solid fruit and dog food. That was her choice over the next 2 days. We gave her antibiotics, Nutra Cal, and Pet Tabs to supplement. Then she began eating the apples and grapes and there was no stopping her after that. Sally had a camera on her enclosure and observed her 21 hours a day. As she gained weight she became pretty sassy. Everyone thought she was going to make it.

Poor little Hau Kea had shown no signs of any problems, her eyes and nose were clear, her stools looked good, she was on antibiotics, and eating better than expected. She gained some weight and we were all thrilled she was doing so well with such a shaky start. Then her world and ours caved in on us. On Saturday January 10th, she went in her den about 9:30pm and pulled the hay in after her. Sally worked until about 3am and watched, but expected she was in for the night. The next morning, one week to the day since she arrived, she came out of the den and appeared to be wobbling. Sally went out immediately and it was obvious something was terribly wrong. She sat with her head down, no sass in her at all, breathing a little hard. Dr. Murphy arrived and the little cub didn’t even put up a fight to our handling her. Dr. Murphy said her lungs were congested and gave her some penicillin and stronger antibiotics. We all kept hoping she could fight it off, but her tiny body had taken as much as it could. She passed away quietly that day. It was heart breaking for everyone. One of the hardest parts of wildlife rehabilitation is when you see the animal improve, appear to be winning the fight, and then take a turn for the worse. At this point we don’t know if the antibiotic did it’s job for a while then just wasn’t enough or if it was failing her all along. Bears are expert at hiding symptoms, but in her case there just weren’t any symptoms until the day of her death. Although it is probably pneumonia, we’ll see what the vet says when he is finished examining her.

For Hau Kea and all the other orphaned cubs that aren’t found or brought in, all of us at IBBR will keep fighting to save these cubs and hope the next time there will be a different outcome. We will never know much of what she went through to survive and the difficulties she faced or how she managed it. We can only imagine with what little we do know. She inspires all of us to be there, to never stop trying to help other cubs who will follow her. Hau Kea will be buried on the property this spring.


Usually we name the bear based on personality or behavior once we get a chance to know them. This time we named the bear Hawaiian for “Surprise”! He was a surprise to us when he arrived. Bears are called cubs during the first year of their life. They are born in January or February and when they reach the end of their first year & begin the second year of life they are called yearlings. All the bears we have now were born in 2008 and are just now turning to yearlings. When Washington called January 22 & said a yearling, we just assumed it was a 2008 cub. Terri & Larry arrived the next day with bear and his behavior and physical size seemed to indicate a yearling in 2008 and was now staring his 3rd year. He was very emaciated, weighing only 26lbs. Notice the size of those paws! Either way, he was a surprise so we named him accordingly.

Pu’iwa was scheduled to go in the deck enclosure so we could monitor him closely as we do all starved bears. However, one look at him on arrival and we knew that wasn’t going to happen. We could manage to get him in even though the entrance is intended for smaller cubs, but it would be impossible to keep him there more than a couple of days. Getting him out without tranquilizing him would have been an amazing feat even if we could accomplish it. Considering his condition, the less tranquilizing the better. Aside from that, with his size we would practically be nose to nose when feeding and cleaning unless he was in the den area. Sally wasn’t quite ready to provide herself as protein to his diet. We decided to put him into the enclosure recently occupied by Ano’i Pua and Ka’ahina as they were now with Wasaka in the adjoining enclosure. All the enclosures have cameras and can be monitored. Some we can record video, but with this enclosure we could only monitor him. He immediately hid out behind the slanted board & filled the whole width of it. As soon as we left he came out and began pulling at tugging at wire and wood panels in front of the wire. Bears will test the enclosures immediately and if they don’t find any weakness, they generally stop looking. Older bears are more persistent than cubs of the year. Sally monitored him throughout the night to be sure he wasn’t continuing to work on the enclosure. He tested the side panels and then settled down and just scanned the whole enclosure.

After about an hour, he moved up to the food, drank the formula first, then the cottage cheese & yogurt as they always do. The bears just seem to sense the formula is needed to help turn around the starvation. He spent time in the back den, sleeping on the hay in front of the den and wandering around the enclosure just staring at things. He was immediately aware of the three bears in the adjoining enclosure and they were very much aware of him. In fact for the first full day Pu’iwa was here, those three spent 95% of their time in the dens. Ano’i Pua was a bit funny as she tried so hard to eat the food while keeping one hind foot in the den as if that would protect her. Of course it was impossible and eventually they all came out long enough to eat and then ran back in the den. It will take a few days for both sides to adjust.

Pu’iwa seemed a bit restless the second day and had eaten everything except the apples, grapes, and dog food. Not surprising as that’s usually the routine for the first few days. However, Sally felt we needed to increase what he was eating until he began taking the solid fruit and dog food. We doubled all three amounts, added the antibiotics to the yogurt, and put the Pet Tabs & Nutra Cal in the cottage cheese. As you read this, he has been eating all that and the solid fruit and dog food. Still, after the sad death of Hua Kea, none of us will breath easy for 10-14 days. As soon as he has built up his weight, Pu’iwa will probably go in the den and hibernate for whatever time is left before spring weather arrives. He has already began pulling hay in the den to build it up so it’s just a waiting game now.


Another special opportunity came to IBBR with an e-mail on February 25, 2009 from a retired veterinarian in Washington about two tiny cubs left on his doorstep. Sally immediately called and spoke to him about the cubs. After their conversation he contacted Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. Rich Beausoleil picked up the tiny cubs estimated to be 4 weeks old with eyes just opening.

Cubs that age would still be in the den with their mother. Did someone disturb the den, chase the mother off and take the cubs? Did mom abandon the cubs and they crawled their way out to be found by someone in the area? Did someone kill the mother and steal the cubs? We will never know what happened except it is not normal for cubs this age to be out of the den. Whoever left the cubs on the veterinarian’s doorstep at least knew they would be taken care of.

Thursday, February 26th our transport team left to meet Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. Sally sent them off with formula and bottles, a quick instruction on how to bottle feed baby cubs with all the tips to go with it. They did just fine and arrived back in Garden City with their tiny charges late that same day. Sally had the indoor enclosure ready to go. After another bottle feeding, the cubs fell sound asleep. Then began the schedule of feeding and stimulating bowel movements every two hours around the clock.

The cubs weighed 3 ½ lbs and 4 lbs - both males and both black. As their personalities began to show, Sally named them Kaulana (Hawaiian for quiet) and Kuhilani (Hawaiian for commanding or bossy). Kaulana had a small white patch on his chest and Kuhilani had a bigger patch of white. But they were easy tell apart by their personalities. Kaulana was the one that was laid back and Kuhilani was charging into everything and taking the lead. As they grow, that changes and the reverse roles a few times.

For a while there was a loud bawling as one or the other got stretched out on his back & couldn’t turn over. No matter what time it was, Sally would have to come to the rescue and roll them back over on their stomach. First signs of play started about March 5 with mouthing followed by the awkward attempts to grab an ear or paw on the other cub. They were also taking some tentative, if not clumsy steps. Three days later they were showing signs of being able to focus better as sudden movements would sometimes startle them. By March 10 Sally could feel the teeth like little mountains getting ready to erupt through the skin. Although there were signs the ears were open, they weren’t reacting to sounds until around March 17th. It’s always fun to watch those first tentative steps, the fall to the side, the get up and do it again until finally their balance kept them on all fours. Then those initial attempts at play - a paw slowly reaching out as if in a swat, only to loose balance and fall over again. By March 20th they were able to climb the wire, wrestling and playing, and even a woof or two if startled. They began taking tiny bits of peaches and soft foods a few days later. It would be about ten days later before they really ate much of the solid food.

The next stage was to move them to the deck enclosure during the day. They were ready for that on April 17th. Sally brought them in each night until they adjusted and stayed in the deck enclosure full time. By May 8th they were quickly outgrowing the deck enclosure so we moved them to the next enclosure. They chased and played and jumped into the water tub and then soaked the clean dry hay we just put down. It wasn’t long before that larger enclosure next to them was so appealing they constantly stared through the chain link wanting to get over there. So on May 23rd, we opened the door between the two and off they went. Normally we leave the door open for a few days and let them go back & forth. Since they wanted over there so badly we thought they would be content and we latched the door shut. Sure enough, 10pm and they were bawling at the top of their lungs. Sally went out and unlatched the door so they could spend the night in the same den. They went back and forth for several days until the triplets from Utah were coming and the door was latched again.

They won’t be weaned until the end of June at the earliest. These two haven’t taken as quickly to the solid food diet so they might need more time with formula. Like most cubs their age, they sleep, chase each other endlessly, wrestle, chase, sleep and it starts all over again. They somehow managed to get to the camera in the rear of the enclosure & ripped out the wires. Wonder what devious plot they are up to now that they didn’t want Sally to see via the camera?

In about 3 weeks when the Utah triplets are settled in and Mahalo (see below) has merged with them, we will put all 6 cubs together and the real comedy will begin.


On May 19th, Kuhilani & Kaulana, the Washington twins left to return to Washington. Although they came from the Wenatchee area, Washington Fish & Wildlife asked if we could meet them in Spokane. They planned a training session for their wildlife officers in handling bears and wanted to show them how to ear tag, radio collar, tattoo, and do a general health check. Our transport team, Larry & Terri Limberg left Boise on 5/19 with one bear in each carrier. They called on the way to say the bears were not happy and were doing some major aerobics the whole way. Thank heavens it wasn’t winter with slick roads or the IBBR truck would have been all over the road. Upon arrival in Spokane Valley, the bears were held overnight in a locked facility at the Fish & Wildlife office. They were fed and watered and the carriers turned so they were facing each other. Both settled down for the night - probably exhausted from all their shenanigans during the trip.

Tattoo on inner lip

The next morning Rich Beausoleil held the training session while preparing the twins for release. The bears were tattooed, ear tagged, radio collared, and weighed. IBBR’s scale was acting up the morning we sent them back to Washington so we didn’t have weights. Kaulana weighed in at 152 pounds and Kuhilani was a whopping 201 pounds. These two were only 4 weeks old when they arrived so they released these two in a very remote area to limit chances of any contact with people to give them some time to adjust to their new world.

Following the Fish & Wildlife training session, IBBR’s transport team left for Wenatchee. Later that day the twins were released in a beautiful area with a nice creek and plenty of food and trees to climb. F&W checked on them a couple of days later & they were still together, but did separate after that. As of 6/20/10 they have not been spotted or getting into any trouble.


Next to arrive was a very tiny, very starved, very frightened cub from Oregon. Her name is Hawaiian for thank you or giving thanks. She weighed only 3 pounds and was the size of a Chihuahua with fur. She was approximately 3 months old and should have been about 10-13 pounds. She was developed enough that she didn’t look like a “baby”, but so tiny for her age she looked like a mini bear. Everyone fell in love with her immediately. Aside from her starvation, she had a touch of congestion in her lungs. We don’t know what happened to her mother as she was found alone in a horse corral with some very upset horses ready to stomp her. IBBR’s transport team again headed out immediately on May 1 to bring her back to IBBR. After a visit to the veterinarian, Oregon Fish and Wildlife met us half way on the long drive so we could get her back here the same day.

Today she is doing fine, but we are still fighting a bit of a rattle in the lungs and she is still on antibiotics. She weighed in at 13 pounds on June 3 and 18lbs on 6/11 so her weight and frame are now developing nicely. She will never be a big bear after such a tiny start. She loves to wrestle and attacks Sally to start a fight the minute she starts to clean and feed. Although the claws are sharp and the teeth very much present, she is gentle in her play. Wrestling is very important for bear cubs in learning to defend and protect themselves in the future. For a short time yet Sally will be the target for her wrestling. As soon as the lungs are clear, she will join the Utah triplets below and they will be wrestling and chasing together in no time. Shortly after that, the triplets and Mahalo will join Kaulana & Kuhilani.

She goes in the outdoor deck enclosure during the day and comes back inside for the night. The weather has been difficult with big thunderstorms and very heavy rain. Not only is she frightened to be by herself during the storms, but with a little rattle left in her lungs Sally didn’t want her to stay outside at night. She keeps the room close to the outdoor temperature so it doesn’t get too warm inside. Despite the noise of the storms, with her foster mom nearby Mahalo settles down for the night feeling quite safe and secure. We anticipate putting her in the enclosure with the triplets in the next 10 days. Everyone is excited to see her with them so she will have a buddy to wrestle with. We just have one hurdle left and that’s the remaining bit of rattle in the lungs.

Considering her size, we may ask to hold her until next spring to give her frame time to develop even more. Oregon Fish and Wildlife will decide that later in the year. In the meantime, she will join the other cubs and continue going through the stages of development with the others. It’s a joy to see her growing each day. After losing two cubs from late last year, we are all thrilled that this tiny cub managed to not only survive, but is thriving so far.


After Kuhilani & Kaulana left, poor Mahalo was lost. She went through the traumatic experience of losing her best friend, Ikaika when he went back to Utah in December and now the Washington twins were gone. We hoped to take Mahalo at the same time we took the twins. We even had two new carriers built to accommodate the three bears. However, hunting season didn’t end in Oregon until 5/31 so she had to wait. After they left, she paced and searched and pouted for several hours a day before finally giving up each day and taking a much needed rest.

Look at the size of those trees! That’s Terri (on the left)
& Oregon Fish & Wildlife officer Rosemary Stussy.

It was around 10 days after they left before she began eating normally, playing in the swim tub, and amusing herself. It was very hard to see her so lonely during that time. At one point she ripped a corner of the chain link in her determination to go find the other bears. We had to immediately add a layer of chain link that was hog ringed from the top of the roof and overlapped down the side about a foot and a half all the way around the enclosure. If she could do it in one corner she could do it anywhere so it had to be done immediately. We spent two full days getting that job done. While it was hard work for us, she seemed to be somewhat amused by us and while we were working, she would stop pacing and sit on the logs and watch us. Sally said she would miss sweet Mahalo as she was such a fun bear & so personable, especially with those big ears sticking out the side of her head. After Mahalo’s little prank, two days of work & $1500 in materials Sally was very ready for her to go home.

She looks so small on that huge tree

When her big day came on 6/2, we were all so excited for her release. We wondered what went through her mind as bears aren’t stupid. Twice before that day came and the other bears disappeared & now here we were again. We tranquilized her and it went very smoothly. Our scale weighed her in at 116 pounds so she had good weight for a female. Even though she was still a small bear, it was so much better to hold her for spring release to give her more time for her body frame to grow. Oregon sent ear tags to us so we did the ear tagging here. Our transport team, Larry & Terri Limberg (and dog Pearl) had a long drive to Oregon so they left immediately. Mahalo did the same aerobics as the twins during the trip. The state wildlife office held her overnight since it was too late to release that day. The officer who originally saved her, Rosemary Stussy took charge of her release as well. She located a beautiful release site which afforded her a chance to adjust to her surroundings without running into people. Mahalo was such a tiny, underweight cub when she arrived at IBBR and such a fun bear that we knew we would miss her, but so excited for her new life to begin & hope she has a long life with cubs of her own in the future.


Monday June 1 the triplets arrived from Utah - one male and two females. Their mother was shot during hunting season, but she had stashed the cubs out of sight and the hunter didn’t realize she had cubs. As soon as he spotted them he contacted the Division of Wildlife Resources to rescue the cubsThey were also very tiny, but considering she had 3 cubs that isn’t surprising. They have settled in nicely next to the twins. As always, the first day or two is taking stock of their new surroundings, deciding what is safe and what is questionable. They will run out of hiding, grab a bite or two and then run back to hide. Eventually one gets brave and stays out longer or climbs up on something and the others will follow suit.

On June 2, we had to manhandle them to give them tetanus shots, check them over, and put on tick medication. After even just one day of food and formula they went from being little wimps to sassy little bears letting us know they didn’t like this manhandling business or the shots. Sally got a nice deep scratch across her arm as memorabilia from that session, but that’s just part of being a wildlife rehabilitator. She laughs and says she has more scars on her arms than skin. Within a few more days they were romping, chasing, climbing everything, and most importantly tipping over all the food dishes. However, like smart bears they quickly learned the formula was the # one item on the menu and did not dump those dishes. With each day they drank more formula (no bottle feeding needed with these 3). That’s exactly what we wanted to see so we installed the “formula dishes on legs”. They are trays that hold the metal dishes and the bears can’t get the dishes out. We wire it to the chain link and they can sit on the dens to drink the formula. Keeps it from getting dirty, but nothing keeps little bear rear ends from sitting in it or bear paws from swimming in it.

As of June 12, they were gaining weight, spending the majority of their day napping and playing. They are completely comfortable in the enclosure now and watch curiously as we feed and clean. Their favorite game is “turn over the fruit dish and spread it all over the hay”. Eventually we will have more of the formula dishes on legs built that we can put the fruit in to help prevent that mess. They are playing in the small water tub and their fur is starting to look much better now.

It’s nice to see them feeling safe and secure, especially knowing what a nightmare they went through losing their mother and having their world turned upside down. The twins are aware of them and they have been watching the twins chase around.

They can reach through the chain link if they want to socialize and probably will be doing that before long. Nothing gets bear cubs to merge faster than a good game of chase and wrestle. By the time we put Mahalo with the triplets it will only be a couple of weeks before all six will be together. IBBR named one of the females Malihini (Hawaiian for Guest), the other female Pulama (Hawaiian - to cherish), and the male Ikaika (Hawaiian for strong). Utah will be coming to IBBR 11/30 to take the triplets back to Utah.  Washington & Oregon Bears will return home sometime after that in December.


Ikaika (blonde), Mahalo behind him, and his two sisters

We started preparing all the bears for hibernation in November. We taper the food supply, clean out the dens, replace all the old grass hay, and hope the weather turns cold. The bears made it clear they were going to den in the front part of the enclosure. Originally we had two dens there, but after seeing one bear always lying outside the dens, we moved a third den up front. While bears will always den together and like the confined areas, we thought it must be two crowded if one bear was always lying outside. When that didn’t solve the problem, Sally watched on the monitor to see if it was one particular bear. After watching for a couple of nights, the solution became clear. We had three separate dens and one bear wanted to den with a specific bear and couldn’t fit in that one den. So we pulled the sides off two of the dens, pushed all 3 together and formed one big den. Problem solved.

Ikaika & Mahalo & one of the 2 sisters

Scheduled release date was December 1. Early on the morning of November 30, Utah Division of Wildlife officers arrived to help prepare the cubs for transport back to Utah. The night before we rousted the two Washington cubs, Kaulana and Kuhilani and moved them to the back part of the enclosure. They were definitely not happy. They paced and tried to dig under the divider gate finally giving up about 1am and going into a den in back.

All 3 bears ready to load in transport trailer

We left Mahalo up front because she was so attached to the Utah male, Ikaika. In her twenty years of bear rehab, Sally said bears do make buddies, but only twice has she experienced the intense bonding these two displayed. The other two bears were Jaws and his Nevada buddy. They actually pined for each other while Jaws was separated after his surgery. Mahalo and Ikaika were constantly together and Ikaika was very protective towards her. If one of the Washington males wanted to play or wrestle with her, he would sometimes intercede and separate them. Maybe protecting her, maybe dominance practice for when he was older and of breeding age, who knows. We felt it would stress both Mahalo and the Utah triplets more if we moved Mahalo too and she would be easy enough to work around the next morning. Little did we know the impact this separation would have for sweet Mahalo.

Ikaika with radio collar & ear tags

The morning started about 730am with tranquilizing the three Utah cubs and moving them out of the enclosure to get weights, measurements, radio collar and put in ear tags. Once all that work was completed, the officers loaded them all three into the transport trailer. It was only a short time before all three bears were alert and wondering what was going on now. Before Utah left with the bears, the two females had pulled off the radio collars and Ikaika was trying very hard to pull his off. It was a long drive home to the release site, but they would do fine and we were excited to see them finally back home and free. While we don’t have any pictures of the release, Utah let us know that all went just fine. They put the radio collars back on before release and after the release they sent us an update. One of the females had dug her own den and the other female and Ikaika were close by and would probably den shortly.

Ikaika ready to load in trailer

After we took the three Utah cubs out of the enclosure, we let the two Washington cubs back up front with Mahalo hoping their presence would offer some comfort and security to her. While she saw all the action, grasping what was happening was another matter. Ikaika was there and then he was gone. The loss of her buddy left her confused and searching for several weeks. She had such a difficult start to life and everyone fell in love with her so it was heartbreaking to watch her search day after day for several weeks for Ikaika. She would come out of the den several times during the night, stand and look all around, just waiting. Sometimes we humans can put our own emotions and feelings onto animals, but there was no mistaking what she was going through. Finally she would give up, go back in the den until morning. During the days she would search the whole enclosure several times and then sit in front of the den looking so forlorn and lost before finally going back inside. For people who say animals don’t have feelings or emotions, we would challenge them to watch Mahalo in her search for Ikaika and continue to believe they don’t have feelings. Separation at release time is just a fact of life for a bear, but that doesn’t make it any easier on them or us.

Can you spot all 3 bears in the trailer?

We scheduled the other three bears to return to Washington and Oregon the middle of December, but plans had to change. Oregon hunting season continued until December 31st and we don’t release bears while hunting season is open. Washington also asked to delay their release due to the officers schedule. We scheduled them again for January 23rd. This time weather thwarted our plans. It was so warm in Washington that snow was melting and bears were coming out of their dens. With no food available and bears becoming active 2-3 months early, it was a bad situation because our bears would not continue to hibernate either. We decided to wait until the first part of February to see if the weather turned cold again. Unfortunately, it turned even warmer here and the bears are active now and are no longer in hibernation mode. So it looks like a spring release late in May after hunting season ends. Check back after that for pictures and details on their release.

Mahalo out again looking for Ikaika 2 weeks after he left for Utah. After searching the
whole enclosure, she took one final look around & went back in the den. She was out
twice more that day and then three times during the night just sitting in front of the dens
as if waiting for Ikaika to show up.