Second Chance at Freedom for 2010 Bears

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The evening of June 2 we received an e-mail from Larry & Terri (our transport team) that everyone arrived safe and sound at Wenatchee late that evening. The morning of June 3, Larry e-mailed to say it was 730 am & they were heading out to release the bears. It would take most of the day to get to all three release sites as they were very remote. Our thoughts were with the bears all day and Sally's thoughts were with Whiskers as the second part of his journey to be a bear begins now.

Almost Home


First Look at Freedom

It was a great day for the release of our Bearly Spring R&R cubs. They were released in three different groups, back in their home state of Washington. As you can see, there's lots of forest, so we got our best picture right before and immediately after the door was opened. Once the cubs left the road, they disappeared into the forest vegetation.

First One Out

"Is it my turn yet?"

Whiskers Takes Off

IBBR wishes to thank the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. They are a progressive wildlife agency, which is manifested in their professionalism, organization, dedication to scientific research, and their support of black bear rehabilitation. Their Department advocates a "hard release" by using Karelian Bear Dogs, who bark until the bears disappear, and rubber bullets, if a bear doesn't head off fast enough...the idea being that they want the cubs' last experience with humans to be less than friendly, with the hope that it will keep the cubs away from humans in the future.

Most of IBBR's cubs are focused on moving ahead into their new and free environment, and we don't think they'll worry too much about that short-lived part of the experience. Their sense of security around humans was only during their time at IBBR, and associated only with their few caregivers. In this new environment their wild instincts to be wary should help to keep them safe. Even "soft" release cubs will run off and disappear quickly...and then there are those cubs who decide to stop and eat :)

Thanks again to everyone for their support of the cubs at Idaho Black Bear Rehab, Inc.

"Open This Door!"

The Twins Heading Out

WA DFW & the Karelian Bear dogs

2010 Bears Prepared for Release

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Release day (for us at IBBR, even if not the actual release day for the bears) is stressful and drains all our energy. While it's a happy day and the end of what we have worked towards, we do feel the stress for the bears. They are scared as one by one a bear is taken out by strangers who are in the enclosure chasing them around. What must they be thinking? It has to be very hard for the last bear as he or she is alone with no companions during a scary situation. That's why Sally or one of the caretakers they know will always go in with whoever is tranquilizing the bears. It's a small, but visible security blanket that tells them we are there even if they don't understand what is happening and lets them know nothing bad is going to happen to them – scary, but not harmful. Everything went very smoothly. It took about 3 hours and we had lots of help.

Radio Collars Ready

It is very hectic and can get a bit frazzling if there are a lot of people. Amy & Jordan (two of our bear caretakers) went in & identified the bears and stayed with them until the bears were down to make sure their necks were stretched out so they wouldn't suffocate. Tennyson (also one of our bear caretakers) helped with taking down all the data on each bear. Valerie (IBBR board & overseeing fundraising) & Larry (transport team) took lots of pictures. We had so much help that Sally took the opportunity to just enjoy each bear as it came out. She was getting the Ivomec for parasite shots ready and taking the opportunity to once again get hands on with the bears. Usually she gets some private time with them before all this happens, but this time it didn't happen. Especially important to her was to spend a few minutes looking over Whiskers as he was on the scale. She told him how proud she was of him for how hard he worked to become a bear after all his frightening & impacting abandonment issues. In her eyes in what seemed like an instant he went from this tiny 6lb, traumatized little bear to a big 140 lb confident bear who knew he was a bear. What more could a mom ask for! Now he just has to continue in that vein and stay out of trouble when he is released.

Preparing Sedation

Weighing Bears

We usually tranquilize 2 bears, do all the work on those two & when close to being done with them, tranquilize two more. IBBR gets weights, some measurements, and a general health check. WA Fish & Wildlife gets a lot more measurements, temperatures, fit radio collars, and ear tags. This time they didn't tattoo because they took DNA samples and have a good DNA database to identify the bears. The big bear in this group was Mauna Loa at 186-187 pounds. Massive bear for his age – awesome size paws! Due to being in rehab and the availability of food, the rehab cubs are at least twice the size, mental & physical development of their counterparts in the wild. In the wild, mom kicks them out on their own at this same age, but they have been dependent on her during that whole time. With the rehab cubs, technically except for the food supply, they are on their own once they are weaned at 6-7 months. By the time they reach the same age as their counterparts in the wild, they have already been independent for close to 8-9 months so are very confident in being a bear.

Getting DNA

We discovered a fresh gash in Ata's side on Wednesday. Since we were going to tranquilize her Thursday, we decided not to call the vet that day & avoid tranquilizing her a second time. Yesterday we separated her first and after we tranquilized her the vet was able to clean the wound. It was obviously from their roughhousing – sometimes a claw just breaks the skin even though it was only done while playing. The vet gave her a long-term antibiotic shot and put a couple of stitches in while leaving an opening so it could drain. Leave it to the bears to do this the day before release, but everyone is sure the wound will heal just fine. One of the others had a small gash on the forehead about a month ago that healed quickly without any treatment. That's one thing about bears – they are good at healing themselves in most cases – have to be as no one to help them in the wild.

Ready To Go

We had media from the local Good Morning America team and from Outdoor Idaho at Public Television. Hopefully we will be able to share it with everyone when aired. Outdoor Idaho segment will air in a month or two. Good Morning America went along on the release and thought they might have 2-3 segments in the future for the Feature Creature segments. Both were here previously interviewing Sally about IBBR. The first GMA segment already aired, but didn't make it to their website for some reason. However, we will be able to get that in the near future and you can see it then. We'll let you know when any of this is available on the internet.

Update to May 29, 2011

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"Come on up!"

It's been pretty warm, but despite that the bears are chasing around most of the day. I'm amazed to see the speed and jumping capabilities of this group of bears. Bears can be very graceful and at times they can be very clumsy. Today I watched all 8 of them race at full speed, front to back, split halfway and each group go a different direction. The one heading south jumped on the den tops at full speed & then onto the deck that's about 6' off the ground. We would probably have broken something just trying to get on the den top without even running at the same time.

"What are you doing up there?"

They have been crashing in the afternoon when it's hot or spending a lot of time in the swim tub. When not sleeping or swimming, they are eating – a lot of dog food, apples, grass, & willows mostly. It has definitely been a challenging week. Two of our 3 part time bear caretakers are missing from the team. One is on a dig (anthropology) for 6 weeks and the other had an opportunity to go to Africa for 3 weeks. One back-up person quit and one asked to cut hours back. So Amy & Sally are trying not to panic & just get it all done as best they can. It's just another of life's everyday challenges.

"Am I hidden?"
The bear would hide behind the
roof of the igloo den torn apart months ago. Then he would peer
out either side at the other two & duck back out of sight trying
to invite them to join him in a game of hide & seek.

The hooligans as we have started calling them are definitely ready to go. Most days the enclosure looks like a hurricane went through it. Log structures we built up are town down almost daily, heavy stumps are moved around like matchsticks. We don't believe for a minute that it's just a coincidence that they end up near the area where the cameras are located. We lost one camera in the front section and it will remain out of commission until these guys are gone. Even logs cemented into the ground have been brought down – impressive to say the least.

The release is still scheduled for the first week in June. The bears are ready and using a lot of pent up energy wrestling and chasing. They will be so happy to be free and able to roam for miles if they wish. The one thing everyone agrees on - they might miss the swim tub. While there are streams and lakes, they aren't conveniently immediately at their disposal. They have been splashing around, diving, pounding the water with their paws, jumping in and out, and playing drown the log that we put in the swim tub for them. The other day one bear grabbed a hollow log with his jaw and paws and dragged it into the swim tub. Apparently it was better suited for the game than the log we chose.

Agile Bear

The bears are in great condition and their new coats are almost completely in now. Colors have changed and except for Whiskers and his unique lope, it makes it difficult to ID each bear on the monitor system. We are so close now to release that it's harder to get pictures with the camera as our time inside must be limited to bare bones minimum.

"Is Nothing Private?"

We have said it so many times and it "bears" repeating – this is the rowdiest group of bears ever in all of our 22 years so far. The week started off with water appearing around the swim tub. They have been jumping in and out of the tub all day so first instinct said it was just the gallons of water they splash out and take out with each lunge they make. You can tell the trail of water as they run around the enclosure after being in the swim tub, but this was just wet ground all around the tub. Over the next couple of days the line of wet ground continued to spread so it became apparent it was more than their antics. We drained the tub and looked for cracks, but couldn't find any. So we went back to "it's just their antics in the water tub". One day Sally looked up from work at the monitor to see a bear in the tub just pounding the water with his paws and splashing it all over the logs. Another day one of the bears stood on a log outside the tub and just scooped water out with both paws like a cat in a cat box pawing the kitty litter before using it.

Lunch Time!

Then we changed our minds again as the water remained and the wet line continued to increase. We drained the tub again to about 3/4th empty, but still no crack that we could find. That meant it was a leak at the bottom and that meant there was nothing we could do at this point. The bears have to have water and we can't repair it. The materials available have a smell and draw the bears so there is no time for it to dry and too dangerous to risk the bears licking it. Besides, an empty swim tub would be just a new game and leave it open for more cracks during their roughhousing. Frankly we have tried repairs before & they never held up under their rough treatment. We usually end up replacing the swim tub. That's what will happen this time as well and we have added a new swim tub to the list of repairs we face once the bears are gone.

"This eating business is hard work - time for a break."

One day as Amy was feeding and cleaning, she was blessed to share in their swim tub antics. When she was done with the work she went outside to drain the swim tub and lower the level in hopes that would help if it was just bears splashing water around. As she stood there watching to see if the water was flowing out the pipe as it should, Whiskers made a dash for the tub, did a belly flop into it and Amy found herself standing under her very own waterfall of water. Did Whiskers plan it…..not impossible?

Lunch Time!

We have had several funny stories involving our swim tub in past years. One year we found it was leaking in several spots. We could see the water dripping down the side of the tub in a tiny stream. We happened to have a smaller spare tub so we drained the tub and planned to replace it with the smaller one. While the tub drained, we cleaned the enclosure. Knowing we couldn't possibly accomplish the task with the help of several bears, we separated them into the front part of the enclosure. As we looked inside the tub at the spots where we knew it was leaking, we were all astounded to find hay crammed into every crack. Aside from one crack with just a strand of hay sticking out about an inch, you couldn't see it from the outside – just the inside. We are still shaking our heads over that one – how did they do that underwater? Did they cram it in from the outside & just keep pushing it inward until it was out of sight? Why in the world would the bears do that? It had to be them as we certainly didn't do it. We will never know the reasoning behind it or understand how they did it. Maybe they were trying to undo the damage they did or more likely trying to hide their antics from us.

On another occasion, Sally looked up at the monitor system to see a stream of water like a waterfall pouring over the edge of the swim tub, down onto the logs and into the enclosure. It was a beautiful waterfall had it been planned and had a place to go besides flooding the enclosure. She didn't see them do it, but the bears had bent the very heavy duty rim of the tub inward, allowing the water to flow out. We drained the tub the normal way & it took 5 of us weakling humans to bend it back into place (thank heavens it didn't crack under the pressure). We refilled the tub, exhausted, but proud of our ability to foil the plans of the bears. The next day, same thing only this time Sally saw it happen. Two bears in the tub just put their paws on the rim and pulled hard managing to bend the rim inward again, even against the pressure of all that water pushing outward. We definitely had a new appreciation for their strength and intelligence that day – something that we admit happens frequently over the years.

One night we thought we were going to have another camera incident. About 8pm Sally looked up at the monitor to see a big black nose and a paw reaching out to the lens. One of the bears had gotten on the closest horizontal pipe to the 4 cameras in the back part of the enclosure and was trying very hard to reach the cameras. He would balance himself on his back on the horizontal bar, wrap one hind leg around the short vertical pipe, and then slide the front half of his body off the horizontal pipe and towards the camera. Most of the front half of his body was hanging in thin air and how he managed to balance that way and the weight of the front part of his body didn't cause him to fall is amazing. He was able to jiggle the camera with a claw, but couldn't maneuver himself to really get a grip. Sally was more worried about him falling than the camera, but he obviously knew his limits and gave up. How many days before we release them?

UPDATE - March 2011

Swim Tub Fiasco

The bears came out of hibernation mid-February only to decide they would continue hibernation on again, off again as the weather dictated. I watched them daily on the monitor system and it became clear early on that this group of now yearlings were going to be a handful. Each bear has his or her own personality, but there is also a group personality and as yearlings, that group personality often takes precedence over individual personalities. What that means is this particular group of bears are looking for trouble, fun, destruction, mischief, and everything / anything is fair game

It started out with what I now call the "Swim Tub Fiasco". Each bear by itself doesn't mean trouble, but even the shyest bear will sometimes succumb to the group mentality. On a Thursday about 5pm I watched the monitor as one of the bears focused intently on the logs around the swim tub. The swim tub sits on a solid wooden frame about 3-4 feet off the ground so it will drain downward to the ditch outside the enclosure. Surrounding the tub are dozens of logs and tree limbs.

A week or so before this our well pump had a pipe burst and a geyser of water went everywhere. It was late in the day, but I managed to reach a plumber who came out and replaced the pipe. We had to turn off all the water, including the in/out flow to the swim tub. We have the pipes outside the enclosure insulated and a heat lamp facing down on the drain portion inside the enclosure where we can't insulate. Since it was dark by the time the plumber was done, I didn't see any reason to worry about leaving the water flow off for the night to the swim tub. The tub was full and we turned off the drain flow so it stayed full. The bears weren't being very active as the temperatures were going down to 15. It didn't seem a big deal if we left the water turned off for a couple of days until 2 people were on duty again. It's easier with 2 people to adjust the in/out flow. What no one thought about was the small section of pipe from the pump up over the roof that flows down into the tub. It was neither insulated nor had any heat on it. In all the mess, no one thought to drain it and it was frozen solid.

And the plot begins!

At the time as I saw the bears starting to focus on the swim tub, I thought one of them dropped an apple between the logs. Now I look back and realize the lack of the flow of water into the tub probably drew their attention and they finally decided to find out what was going on. Any change in their enclosure is an attention grabber. At first it was just sniffing and moving around from hole to hole among the logs. One bear showing an interest in something will immediately draw other bears. Before long all 8 of them were covering the logs around the swim tub. For 8 bears to show an intense interest in something definitely means trouble. My focus went from my work to bears in an instant. Over the next two hours I watched as the bears first looked and searched through the logs and then began to formulate their plan of action. Two or three bears would appear to be communicating and then each would pair up with one of the others. Within the next half hour each bear began rooting through the logs. Logs that took 2-3 of us humans to lift or move, one bear would toss aside like a toothpick.

At that point I knew their ultimate goal was to get to the base of the swim tub frame and start digging. I watched the next 2 hours as they moved the logs and cleared the way to the frame and the dirt. They dug continually scattering dirt everywhere for the next 2 ½ hours. By the time they decided to break, one bear could squeeze his body under the frame. They worked at it off and on all day Thursday & Friday. The last bear (one of the WA twins Ata & Awina) gave up for the night a little after 930pm. However, I knew they weren't done. One for all and all for one – until all of them could get under the frame there was still work to do. I stayed up all night watching the monitor while working. Sure enough, at about 5am Saturday morning the first bear began digging again. By 630am they were all at it with huge amounts of dirt being tossed everywhere. One or two moved logs farther out of the way to expose more of the frame and the others dug out the dirt. I saw 4 bears disappear under the frame.

Amy & Tennyson begin the work to repair the damage

The swim tub frame has been there for at least 10-12 years and while IBBR VP Tom Robb built it to last & there was no sign of a problem, there was no way to know if leaks and moisture over the years had compromised the structure underneath. I expected that once all the bears were under it their next focus would be to claw at the wood supports as bears tend to do with wood. Visions of a swim tub filled with huge amounts of water collapsing onto bears under it began to form in my very worried & tired brain. At 1030am Saturday morning, job share employees Amy Kidwell & Tennyson Eagan arrived on the scene. With instructions from me (I still had to remain at my desk for work), they went in, locked all the bears in the front section, and prepared to undo all the hard work of the bears. They found the bears had dug a wide hole under the frame approximately 5' back. They said the frame was still very solid which was definitely good news. For the next 3 hours they pushed as much of the dirt back under the frame as possible, jammed some of the smaller logs under the frame, and moved the logs back in place. Thankfully we have plenty of logs and huge tree branches in the enclosure to use. I watched as the two them struggled to move the logs back in place that one bear with one paw had tossed aside.

"These humans - all that work and they didn't like
our remodel job!"

Finally everything was back in place. I breathed a sigh of relief. Now the challenge was to distract the bears. Bears can so easily be distracted unless they get the intense focus going as they had on the swim tub & then a hurricane can't distract them. We rounded up some cardboard boxes, some empty plastic cartons, moved some of the other structures (always draws their interest when something is moved around), and topped it off with lots of apples, leaf lettuce, carrots and some oranges. Then we opened the divider gate and let them back into the back part of the enclosure.

To my surprise, although they did check out the swim tub first thing, they didn't pick up on moving the logs again. We had thawed the in/out flow so water was once again running into the swim tub and they seemed happy about that. They took time to eat, then chased around, and finally made it back to the swim tub. However, this time it was just to play in it and attack the flow of water and splash water all over. They obviously enjoyed the few days worth of shenanigans. I, on the other hand had a continual anxiety attack. Now we wait to see their next big game plan to cause trouble! It's going to be a very long few weeks before their release in May.

Camera Shenanigans

Sure enough, it wasn't long before the next troublemaker reared his head. This time it wasn't a group thing - just one bear determined and focused. Cubs have managed to We have had cubs get to one or two of the cameras in the enclosures before. However, we tested the camera positions in the back part of the main enclosure with a Utah cub named Tas (sometimes aka Taz). That bear was one of the smartest and most athletic bears I've ever met. Tas never did get to the cameras so I felt pretty sure we had a win win location. Yet one day about a week ago I was working away, just casually glancing at the monitor if I saw any action. Suddenly, without any warning out of the corner of my eye I saw a big black nose and then the hot breath fogged out the camera lens. That got my attention immediately. One of the bears (who has refused to identify himself) managed to climb up the culvert pipe we wrapped around the support beams to the roof and was nose to lens with the camera. There are 4 cameras there all pointed in different directions so if he got to one he could get all 4.

Normally the bears can't climb the culvert pipe we wrapped around the support beams. The only time I saw them even attempt it was as younger (less weighty) bears and they got a running start & made it up about 3 feet before sliding down. I will have to go back & review the video to see how he got up there and not just that, but how he got to the top. He remained there for about 2 minutes, breathing on the camera & touching it with his paw. One of the other bears came over to the base of the pole as if to say "how did you get up there."

Finally after holding my breath and starting to turn blue, I saw him slid back down to go wrestle with the other bear. However, bears learn very quickly & what one bear figures out, the others will learn too. So we aren't out of the danger zone yet.

Notice the cub curled up in the roof of the igloo den.
The bear standing beside it is rolling him around the
enclosure while he sits curled up inside enoying the


Call it distractions or enrichment, we offer the bears various items to play with in hopes they won't be so destructive. Sometimes it works & sometimes it doesn't. They have already destroyed 3 dens with plenty of time to destroy more. Might seem frustrating, but it's just part of being a bear and the rehab program. We know there will be lots of repairs after each release - some years more so that others. While it can be frustrating and wearing at times, I'm fascinated and amused by each bear and each group of groups and their progress from shy, frightened cubs to big yearlings so capable of taking care of themselves. So in the end, what are a bunch of repairs compared to the final result of healthy, happy bears who are confident in being a bear.

Release Dates

We will be releasing this group of bears sometime in May. Right now the time frame is dependent on the schedule of both Washington Fish & Wildlife and the IBBR transport team. We will also be considering the condition of the bears and the release site - available food, etc.

UPDATE September 23, 2010

How do I open this thing?

The bears are all doing great. Little Whiskers isn't so little any longer and is as big as the twins now. Everyone is piling on the food. Seems like we just stock up on dog food and fruit and it's time to get more. We have quite a few fish donated this fall and they are enjoying that. While we don't weigh the bears unless we have to tranquilize for some reason weights probably range from 40 to 70 depending on male or female.

Where is that waiter?

We have been so busy that we haven't selected names for the last 3 WA cubs. No contest this time, but feel free to suggest some names - no people names please. The smallest female of the three is so very shy and we have made a point to let her get first choice of the fruit and yogurt to help her gain more weight. While everyone plays and gets along just fine, she will sometimes hang back and doesn't always get the same amount of fruit as the others.

Here let me help. Maybe if we both pounce on it?

Recently we noticed one of the bears had thrown up and then heard Lanikai coughing. He was pawing at his throat as they do if they have something stuck in the throat. We could always tranquilize him to check it out, but that's traumatic for the bears (even those who aren't tranquilized are stressed by the actions). It was more likely a slight respiratory infection so we started him on antibiotics for 10 days. He is off the medicine now and there hasn't been any coughing for about 4-5 days and no sign of any vomiting. Bears are very hardy and don't show you symptoms easily. They can be sick and still wrestle and play so we keep a close eye on them for any signs of a problem. For the most part they are rarely get sick.

We managed to sneak a few pictures recently while the bears were focused on some huge watermelons we got for a steal. Some of them looked almost as big as the bears. We broke some & let the bears work on the others. It was comical to watch them roll the watermelons all over, play with them, try to pick them up, and finally just land on the top with both front feet and pop them open. Fun day for them and us.


Washington called a couple of days before taking Kuhilani & Kaulana back for release. It seems they had two cubs that were orphaned when mom was shot. The female weighed 7.7 pounds and the male 5.7 pounds. The male had a bite wound on one shoulder and a long gash in the other. Both were in poor condition & the officer told IBBR it was likely the male wouldn’t have survived even if the mother hadn’t been killed. So this time while it was sad they lost their mother, it was to their benefit since they were caught and sent to IBBR for rehab. IBBR’s transport team, Larry & Terry Limberg headed back with the cubs after releasing the twins from 2009. We held them in the indoor enclosure so Sally could get them on a feeding routine and keep an eye on the male’s wounds. The Washington veterinarian stitched up the long gash and gave him long lasting antibiotics.

On 6/3 after the cubs were used to a routine and settled in, we moved them outside to the deck enclosure to acclimatize and prepare for the larger enclosure. It doesn’t take long for two cubs to outgrow that enclosure. A week later they moved to the next largest enclosure and they were very happy cubs. They chased each other, perfected their climbing and falling skills and were quite content. Wounds on the male were healing nicely despite the roughhousing. On 6/17 the next cub arrived so we let the twins into the next larger enclosure right next to the one they were in. Oh boy did they have fun in there - lots room to chase, climb, and endless things to amusement themselves with. They have gained weight and the male’s wound’s are healed.


The end of May Washington called again with a cub that had a very sad story. His history is not really known for sure, but appears someone had him with good intentions until they realized raising a bear is not easy. Eventually the cub made it’s way to IBBR, but a lot of damage was done along the way. (See Sally’s comments in “For the Bears”. IBBR made arrangements to go get the cub after Mahalo’s release. The cub arrived June 5 and the drama began. The cub weighed 6 pounds and had a touch of pneumonia so had to be on antibiotics for two weeks. He was so tiny his little head fit in the palm of Sally’s hand. He was thin and scared. First he lost his mom, then he was with people who had no idea what to do with a bear cub, then with people who knew what to do, but still another traumatic change in his short life. Finally he was transported to IBBR and yet another frightening change was taking place.

Cubs held in the indoor enclosure in Sally’s office are able to see Sally at all times and she is only about 5 feet away. There has never been any problem as long as Sally was in view.

However, this little cub would go crazy if Sally wasn’t sitting right beside him with the enclosure door open so he could touch her if he wanted to. If she left or closed the door he would pace at full speed for up to 3- 4 hours. It was nearly impossible to distract him from the frenzied pacing. Everyone offered advice, but nothing worked. Sally used every trick in her 20 years of bear rehab to no avail. The only thing that stopped it was the door open & Sally sitting right there. She was getting little work done and going crazy over the situation. Something had to give. As a last ditch effort she tried a new routine. The cub was taking 4-6oz of formula every 4 hours. She changed the feeding schedule to 2 hours and persuaded the cub to eat more solids like peaches and plums and yogurt. She always fed the cub in the indoor enclosure. As long as she was right there, the cub would relax, play, wrestle, chew on the leather gloves, and seemed quite content. Close the door or even stand up, and the frenzied pacing started.

After he had played for an hour, she put the cub in a small carrier and he settled down to sleep. Next feeding he would leave the carrier & go inside the enclosure quite happily to take his bottle. Then he would play while Sally sat there for another hour or as long as she could. When he realized she was leaving, Sally hold the carrier by the enclosure door and the cub would immediately go into it. While not ideal, it has alleviated the pacing for the most part as he has no opportunity to continue it. The big question was whether he would continue his pacing even when he was with other cubs? Had he been so traumatized or humanized that it would be impossible to ever release him?

Sally named this cub Whiskers - he has a habit of wanting to sniff your mouth and face as a means of reassurance and when he does she says his lower lip feels like a 2-3 day growth of a rough beard. Hence the name Whiskers - not Hawaiian or Native American, but appropriate.

On 6/25, Whiskers went to the vet for his third vet check. He was now weighing 12 pounds and his pneumonia was gone. All very good news. When he got back, Sally decided since the pneumonia was gone she would see if he would still pace when left in the enclosure without her sitting with him. It was a horrendous 24 hours. He started at 130pm after returning from the vet, paced until 5pm when he got his bottle & Sally stayed with him. When she moved to her desk, he started pacing again & continued until his next feeding at 9pm.

The whole time he paced, Sally was only 5' from him and clearly visible. Once again, he stopped during the hour Sally sat with him. Normally Sally works until 3-4am, but she hoped if all was quiet he would settle down and sleep so she quit work for the night at 10pm. In the vari-kennel he would sleep soundly until 7am & Sally hoped for the same while he was in the enclosure. Lights out, TV off, time to sleep....... except no one slept. Whiskers paced full speed and added bawling at the top of his lungs until 3am. At that point he actually stopped for about an hour & then started again. He continued until the first feeding. When he finished his bottle, Sally put him in the vari-kennel & he immediately went to sleep and slept for 5 hours. Poor little guy had to be exhausted. Sally knows bear behavior and for the first time she considered that the damage done might be permanent or maybe he had something mentally off balance & that’s why mom abandoned him. The possibility that he would never be normal was looming on the horizon.

Then a miracle happened - something changed with Whiskers. Apparently he came to understand that he wouldn’t be abandoned again. When Sally moved him from the vari-kennel to the indoor enclosure for his first feeding on Sunday the 27th, she noticed a slight change. He was wired up, wanting to run, played more aggressively, and in general seemed more confident about being a bear. She sat with him for the normal hour and he seemed much more intensely interested in the items in the enclosure than Sally. He never looked to see if she was still there so after an hour she picked him up and took him outside to the deck enclosure. She had tried that before with frantic pacing the same as inside. This time he immediately began investigating that enclosure. Sally stayed with him for about 20 minutes and then quietly snuck inside to watch him on the monitor system. Bless his little heart, he was quite content, didn’t pace, didn’t bawl. Although a bit nervous, instead of pacing he would run and hide inside the large varikennel. It appears he finally turned a corner to everyone’s relief. The next step (after the 4th of July fireworks which will terrify him) is to merge him with another cub that is coming to IBBR in a few days. Keep good thoughts for this little cub that he doesn’t revert back because his future hinges on that.


First step out of the
transport carrier

Played hard all day & now zonked out

The last bear to arrive this spring came from Washington on 6/17. The mother had been hit by a car, but the cub was fine. Our transport team left to bring the cub back to IBBR & met Washington Fish & Wildlife officer Pam Taylor in the Spokane area. All the cubs this year have been smaller than normal, except this bear. He is larger and in pretty good shape, black in color. We put him in the enclosure next to the WA twins and he wants so badly to go in with them. He started digging his way in almost immediately. However, we need to keep him separated for a week to be sure he is eating normally and is really okay. We thought we foiled his plans to dig into the other enclosure, but bears are very inventive so it was a new game each day. He was eating well and seemed content except for his desire to be with the other cubs.

Sally watched him on the monitor and says he really is a very playful bear. There should be no problem merging him with the twins. As with most cubs, his favorite amusement is the plastic lawn chair. They all love tipping it over, moving it around, running through the various holes, and sitting in it. As for food, he loves the formula and is ready and waiting for us to refill his dishes twice a day. He also loves the grapes and cherries and yogurt.

As soon as Sally was convinced he was eating normally and settled in, we opened the door between the two enclosures and let him go in with the twins. As playful as he was, Sally felt it would only be a day or two at most before they were chasing an wrestling. As expected, the first day they made some hesitant greetings and by the 2nd day the games were one. Toss in some willows and the fun begins again.


Our July 4th holiday bear arrived on Friday, July 2. He is a male, 34 pounds and a beautiful reddish brown in color. He was in good shape and his mother had obviously been taking good care of him. Unfortunately for her, she already had an injury before being shot by a landowner while trying to find food in a trash can on the porch. She had a hole in her side so it appeared she had been shot at before. The cub was captured and our transport team set out on 6/30 to bring the cub to IBBR.

Along the way back, they checked in to give us a progress report and in the background we could hear the cub bawling at the top of his lungs. They said that went on for about 150 miles. If you have ever been near a cub (not to mention one sitting right behind you as you drive) bawling loudly, it can be ear shattering. Some have very high pitched bawls and others are lower in tone. Thankfully, this cub’s voice was deeper and lower so it could have been worse.

On arrival, he came out of the carrier, looked around for a bit, got some water, ignored the food, and hid for the night. In the morning he had eaten the yogurt, but nothing else. As Jon Knight (who still helps once in a while) went in to see what food we need to refill, the cub took a stance by the entrance and basically dared Jon to come in. Of course Jon has worked with the bears for about 7 years so he just proceeded inside, much to the cubs’ surprise. Once Jon saw most of the food was still there, he left and then the cub decided to eat the food we left the night before. Maybe he thought we would take it away if he didn’t. After that he began to check out the enclosure & watch the cubs in the enclosure next to him.

He is much bigger than little Whiskers, who weighs about 15 pounds now. Our plan is still to put Whiskers with him after the fireworks stop - probably around the 6th. Whiskers needs to be with a bear and it’s our hope that he will take to this cub right away and not notice that his foster mom (Sally) isn’t there. He has needed a lot of personal time to get back on his feet with a good weight for his tiny size. Now it’s time for Whiskers to be a bear with other bears. He is past the pneumonia and our hopes are high that he will adapt & let go of his need for Sally to always be there even though that is understandable when he has have been orphaned (or changed hands) as many times as he has. This new cub seems very calm so he will be a good match for Whiskers and then we will merge these two with the others.


On 8/11 triplet cubs from Washington arrived, two females and one male. Mom was killed by a vehicle. All three were black, the male weighed approximately 43 pounds, the smaller female 25 pounds, and the larger female 31 pounds. We moved the other cubs to the back section of the main enclosure and released these 3 into the front section. They were fairly calm, but after the long journey of over 7 hours we felt the best thing was to leave them alone to settle in and watch them from the monitor system.

As usually happens, the resident bears ran for cover. You would think being on their own turf, they would stand their ground, but it always happens that the new arrivals get to take charge for at least a day or two. When we opened the gate to merge the 3 new cubs, it was pretty clear early on that these three were very timid. The smaller female was so shy we rarely saw her even on the monitor system when no one was around.

By 8/16 they were in the swim tub, selected the back corner with the teepee logs as their base for the time being. All the bears were out and about & no one huffing or puffing, just kind of staying in their own area. The resident bears moved up to the front when the triplets went in back. By the 16th they began to wander around in the back section again. That was a clear sign the bears would merge in the next 4-5 days.

The smallest & extremely shy female has a really beautiful black coat. We named her Kalapana which is one of the largest & nicest black sand beaches on the island of Hawaii. The larger male we named Mauna Loa which is the largest and most active volcano on the planet. He is shy, but when out pretty rough in his play with the cubs so it fits. The larger female is also shy, but not as bad as Kalapana so we named her Noelani which means mist of heaven or from heaven.

As shy and timid as these three cubs are, it's going to be difficult to get pictures other than through the monitor system. Sometimes we find they will change once they feel secure, but we aren't expecting that to happen with these cubs.