Bear Journal 2013

Kapiolani & Shadow Return Home

Monday May 13th, 2013 was release day for Kapiolani and Shadow. Release day is always stressful for the bears and all of us, even when things go smoothly. It is the culmination of their time in rehab and for us we have to ask if we did the job right, did a good job, did the very best we could do for them. With Kapiolani, we had many concerns and questions about releasing now. After Valerie met with F&G and based on her review of that meeting, discussions with the staff, with other bear people and people I trusted, I made the decision to agree to release now. I can't honestly say I was 100% comfortable with it, but then considering the situation, whether now or later, 100% was asking too much.

Shadow is tranquilized -- getting his temperature
Shadow is tranquilized -- getting his temperature
Listening for a pulse
Listening for a pulse
A not so dignified spread while getting Shadow's weight -- 107lbs
A not so dignifed spread while getting Shadow's weight -- 107lbs
Hosing shadow down as it was getting warm
Hosing shadow down as it was getting warm -- notice his huge white marking -- it was weeks after his arrival before we realized it was much bigger than the 3" marking we thought
Amy Kidwell & daughter Emma say goodbye to Shadow
Amy Kidwell & daughter Emma say goodbye to Shadow before they load him in the carrier
Nice teeth -- no dentist needed here
Nice teeth -- no dentist needed here

F&G arrived shortly after 10am. We had told Kapiolani what was going to happen and the process and hoped she got the message. Amy said she kept sending pictures of the woods and mountains with her walking in the trees, no chain link boundaries. She weighed considerably more than they expected, both from a constant supply of food, but she was able to be really active with her bad leg. She weighed in at 210 & I think last time F&G weighed her was in 2010 at 160 or 180. When she came her she had lost 60 or 80 lbs.....for some reason I can't keep the 60 or 80 in my brain. At any rate, they used a tranquilizer dart to put her out, but it took several tries. She just didn't want to go down and the adrenalin wasn't helping.

Kapiolani finally out and on the stretcher.
Kapiolani finally out and on the stretcher. Getting ready to fasten the radio collar in place - she is losing her winter coat -- we should have given her a brush job while she was out
Taking the temperature (100.8)
Taking the temperature (100.8)
Shaving the wound -- still looks a bit bad at this point
Shaving the wound -- still looks a bit bad at this point
Now looking better -- is closed now over half the wound
Now looking better -- is closed now over half the wound
Even better
Even better
I'm holding hands with Kapiolani while the wound is cleaned and washed
I'm holding hands with Kapiolani while the wound is cleaned and washed

In the meantime, they darted Shadow and he went out almost immediately. So while they were waiting on her to go out, they picked him up and brought him out. He weighed in at 107, much more than a yearling his age in the wild, but about average for a male yearling being released in spring after 3 months in rehab. Plenty of food and no other bears to chase and wrestle with meant he wasn't as active as he would have been with other bears or if mom had been able to do those things with him. We hosed him down to cool him off, took his temperature (101 - normal is about 102), and then loaded him in a separate carrier. They planned to put both in the culvert trap used to haul them, but it was talking too long to get mom ready to go.

Wow -- so much better.
Wow -- so much better
On the stretcher & ready to load
On the stretcher & ready to load
How do we get this very big bear in that culvert trap?
How do we get this very big bear in that culvert trap?
Radio collar on -- pulling out the tranquilizer darts before loading her
Radio collar on -- pulling out the tranquilizer darts before loading her
Checking on Shadow in his carrier
Checking on Shadow in his carrier
And Kapiolani is in
And Kapiolani is in - a bit wet, but cool and hay in the front that she can move around as she wishes

Once we got mom out & weighed, they began putting the radio collar back on her so they could track her. While they did that, the State Wildlife Veterinarian began shaving and cleaning the wound. I was holding her paw & leaned down to look while he was getting the material ready. It smelled horrible & I thought this is not good. I saw what looked like some brown puss, but later saw it was just wet dirt. Once he shaved the leg, washed it good, it was clear the wound had closed and healed substantially. I felt so relieved and so much more comfortable with releasing her as she was. While we kept the swim tub water clean, I knew there was dirt on the bottom and really worried the amount of time she spent in the swim tub might have allowed bacteria to get in. However, the wound looked so much better & I could see the granulation the vet had been talking about. He cleaned it good and I believe one of the liquids was topical antibiotic. He also gave her a shot.

on the way
on the way
no vehicles of any kind beyond this point
No vehicles of any kind beyond this point. Both bears awake & probably smelling the wonderful pine smells of home.
This is it -- back home and ready to be free
This is it -- back home and ready to be free
Another view
Another view
Lots of trees and also lots of water around the area
Lots of trees and also lots of water around the area
Last photo and carrier back on our truck
Last photo and carrier back on our truck and Amy is heading home -- see videos to see bears taking off

They loaded her into the culvert trap and it was time to leave. Amy got a few seconds of video at the release site, but it happened so fast. They unloaded the metal carrier and opened the door. Shadow took off, stopped for a brief second and looked back, probably expecting to see Kapiolani behind him. Then he kept loping into the trees. Right after that they opened the culvert trap and Kapiolani burned rubber - she tore off so fast it looked like she 8 legs instead of 3. You'll see what I mean if I can get the video sent to FB and the team can download it. Kapiolani and Shadow are now back home and as she put it, "I can take care of Shadow from here on". What a great mom and now that I think about it, her mother's day gift was freedom & going home.

IDFG promised they would track Kapiolani's radio signal frequently. We had one update the end of July, but that's about it.

Sally Maughan

Update Mom & Cub 3/16/13

Very long and stressful day for everyone including the bears. We started at 8am picking up scat and getting logs out of our way in case we needed to make a hasty retreat. We have tranquilized so many cubs over the years that we can predict how things will go with any given cub. However, with mom as an adult and her cub with her, none of us were sure what she might do. She is okay with the bear caretakers and is especially tolerant of Amy, but we have worked very hard to maintain a routine so she knew exactly what to expect when we were in the enclosure. Now strangers would be in there and maybe being males, would she see them as a threat to her cub in the way a male bear would be? Would she just hide in the den – would she try to bluff – would she charge out at us. We certainly didn’t want anyone getting hurt, including mom if she tried to run with her bad leg.

Update 3/16/13 Image 1
The cub isn't sure what's going on this morning

Yesterday we hoped to coax her to move to the den she first used when she arrived. She doesn’t come out during the day so creates a barrier at the entrance (or exit depending on how you look at it) of scat. After the scat pile got so high, she moved out of her first den & went to another one. Was that her way of telling us to get busy & clean it up? The den she moved to was better protected from view on both ends than her first den and it seemed obvious to us that she liked it better. However, she also did the scat barrier on the front entrance so we wanted to see if she would move to her first den which was now cleaned up so we could clean this one. After we got the first den arranged so we felt she would feel better protected from view, we fed and left. Late that night I observed the cub going over there & arranging it to his liking. Turned out his liking worked for mom too as she moved in.

So first thing before the activity got started we cleaned out the second den in case she wanted to go back to it after she woke up. The first den made it a little more difficult to get to her. She was facing the back entrance & the cub was facing forward & had piled a bunch of hay in front of him as well. Dr. Mark Drew needed a shot at her rump so Amy started raking hay away in hopes mom would turn around to face her… and it worked. Dr. Drew was then able to dart her with the tranquilizer. She didn’t charge out of the den, but she did come out and walked over to her other den. As she got to the entrance, I happened to be right in her line of vision and she looked at me as if deciding to ignore me or tell me how unhappy she was. She ignored me & went in the den. After a few minutes Dr. Drew was able to just give her an additional shot with a needle. Then he & Amy loaded her onto the stretcher and I opened doors as we went out of the enclosure.

Update 3/16/13 Image 2
Cub facing us & mom's rump - need to turn mom around
Update 3/16/13 Image 3
Not a clear picture, but great picture of Mom's eyes as we prepare to tranquilize her

We weighed her first. She weighed 80 lbs when she arrived (her last weight by Fish & Game was 160 lbs prior to the injury so she was seriously underweight when she arrived). Today she weighed 116-117 lbs so she has gained 36-37 lbs. Nice job, mom! Her wound had healed over in some areas, but not in another. Initially the discussion was to operate & try to repair the wrist that was locked in place, but instead Dr. Drew decided to take her to WestVet. WestVet handled Sierra (IBBR’s police dog) during her worst health issues & Dr. Brourman has operated on two of our bears, including our special bear, Jaws. They could have the leg X-rayed & really see what was going on with the injury. Amy went with mom and I stayed with the cub.

Update 3/16/13 Image 4
Mom arriving at WestVet Clinic

As soon as they left he began whining and bawling and looking for mom. At first he hid behind one of the piles of logs, but I kept talking to him and eventually he poked his head out and then came out. I was quite surprised that he seemed to know the last place he saw mom was going through the gate at the front of the enclosure as he kept sitting there whining. I guess we underestimate what an animal can grasp at times. I talked with him for about half an hour just telling him about life and what a good mom he had and what a fun cub he was and the facts of life and about his life as a free bear again. Either I calmed him down or he got so bored he fell asleep, but all the whining and bawling stopped.

At the clinic they discovered her elbow was broken in six places too. The bullet had done that when it traveled down into the wrist area. They did a cat scan too and then brought her back. Everyone agreed that they needed to study what they had & decide what, if anything they could do with surgery to help her. Not only were the broken bones a problem, but the tendons being atrophied complicated the whole situation. Could they repair either or both of those problems. Then, if they had a plan for surgery and how to repair the damage came the second big question. Could they manage any post op that was needed – would it mean tranquilizing her daily – every other day – bandage change – casts – just what would the post op entail? Tranquilizing her daily isn’t a good thing and you couldn’t just put her in a clinic kennel – she had to come back here. So lots to discuss and we hope to know the decision next Wed. Everyone is so willing to help her, but the reality of the situation may mean she either has to function holding her injured leg against her side as she has been or amputate the leg so she won’t damage it in the brush and rocks & trees when released. Either way, she and the cub will get their second chance at freedom, but we have to do the best we can for her before then. She doesn’t need to be in captivity for life and we certainly don’t want to release her during hunting season so when she is released hinges on a lot of decisions right now.

Update 3/16/13 Image 5
Will she fit through the door?
Update 3/16/13 Image 6
First look at the wrist
Update 3/16/13 Image 7
Elbow doesn't feel right - broken bones?
Update 3/16/13 Image 8
Shaving the wound on the wrist to see how it looks since she arrived
Update 3/16/13 Image 9
A whole bear team
Update 3/16/13 Image 10
Wound cleaned up but still needs some work
Update 3/16/13 Image 11
Trying to fit one big bear in one little MRI to look at elbow
Update 3/16/13 Image 12
Bear fits, but those darn paws are in the way

After they returned from the clinic, we placed mom in the center of the enclosure. I watched her to be sure she came out of the tranquilizer in the hour or so Dr. Drew said. She went longer than that, but she had a lot of drugs due to the tests and time they took so not surprising it took longer.

Update 3/16/13 Image 13
Wound cleaned up again, but still has some healing to do - can't stitch it shut. If they do surgery they may be able to transplant some skin over it to help cover the bone completely.
Update 3/16/13 Image 14
Back home - hard to see such a magnificient bear and one we have all come to love and respect lying out cold with her injured leg, but it's one more step towards recovery & release.

Through all of this experience with mom and cub since they arrived, I would never be surprised by mom’s tenderness and concern for the cub. However, I’m still surprised at the cubs tenderness and concern towards mom. After everyone left & I came inside to watch them on the monitor. The cub came over to her, sniffed all around her and sat down with her. That’s not surprising, but what was very touching was to watch him try to give her some grapes. She was still flat with just her head bobbing and not able to get up yet. He tried so hard, but of course she couldn’t eat them. When that didn’t work, he got a small blue ball we put in the enclosure and played with it as he sat beside her head. He would roll it up his belly & hold it over his head and put it back on the ground and push it over to her. She was a bit more alert by then, but still lying down and probably thinking what a headache she had and would he stop rolling that ball at her. At one point he moved over to sit alongside her back and he put the ball on her side. It rolled off, but he seemed to take that as a sign that she was okay and playing with him. It was such an endearing hour that I couldn’t take my eyes off them. I snapped a bunch of pictures with the monitor camera and hoped they turned out good enough to see the two of them.

Update 3/16/13 Image 15
Is that my mom?
Update 3/16/13 Image 16
Mom raises her head to greet cub - head movement is all she had at that time.
Update 3/16/13 Image 17
Cub trying to get mom to get up & can't understand why she won't
Update 3/16/13 Image 18
How about some grapes mom?
Update 3/16/13 Image 19
Can someone help my mom?
Update 3/16/13 Image 20
Mom, are you okay - can you please get up
Update 3/16/13 Image 21
He just can't understand why she is just lying there - tugs at the heartstrings
Update 3/16/13 Image 22
Maybe she'll play ball with me
Update 3/16/13 Image 23
Here mom - want to play ball?
Update 3/16/13 Image 24
Surely a cute pose will get a reaction
Update 3/16/13 Image 25
Okay mom, roll it back to me
Update 3/16/13 Image 26
Look mom, I can hold the ball with both paws
Update 3/16/13 Image 27
I could make that shot if there were a hoop to aim for
Update 3/16/13 Image 28
Look at me mom - I'll toss it to you if you get up

It took her a long time to get up and the cub eventually stretched out beside her and then moved to the nearby den to wait. She got up and walked like a drunk towards the den and he immediately came out to greet her. Before she went to the clinic, he was either with her, where he could see her, or not far away from her. It has been interesting to watch them since then. He is now attached to her at the hip – where she goes, he is right with her. This was very stressful for him, especially since he was on his own without her once and now for the second time he was alone without her. Our hearts just go out to him, but he handled it much better than we expected.

Update 3/16/13 Image 29
Cub gives up and lies down next to her
Update 3/16/13 Image 30
Waiting patiently - mom now able to life her shoulders up too

At dark, mom disappeared outside the camera vision, but we could see her eye shine by the den we just cleaned. Then she disappeared again until we saw her climbing the logs going up to the swim tub. We have a small tub of water in there, but had drained the swim tub because we didn’t want her to possibly drown if she got up there while still not fully in control of her body. She has never gone up to the swim tub before, but of course she would pick tonight to do it. At one point she tried to lean down into the tub to reach the little bit of water at the bottom, but with her bad leg she couldn’t manage it. We filled the swim tub again today so we will see if she goes up to it again tonight.

Update 3/16/13 Image 31
And she is up - wobbly, but up
Update 3/16/13 Image 32
Down again - the legs just don't work right yet
Update 3/16/13 Image 33
Let's try it again
Update 3/16/13 Image 34
First time mom ever climbed up to the swim tub

At 2:25am and she and the cub hadn’t been seen on the monitor system since midnight so hoping she had gone in the den and can get some rest to recover from today’s events. We were anxious to see if she went back to her first den or the one we cleaned out yesterday and today found her in the den we just cleaned out. One nice thing happened – the radio collar was only hanging on by a small section (probably courtesy of her cub) so they took it off and left it off. They will put another one on before she is released, but it’s nice to see her without it as it served no purpose in the enclosure.

Please continue to say a prayer for her as we wait to hear if the vets can help her and handle the post op demands if they do operate. We are all hoping they can repair the elbow damage and at least give her back enough use of her paw to be supportive even if she doesn’t have normal use of it.

Sally Maughan

Mom and Cub Arrive at IBBR

Mom and Cub

On Tuesday 2/5, IBBR received a call from Idaho Fish & Game about an injured 7 year old adult female bear. Normally state wildlife agencies don’t consider adults as candidates for rehab so we never expected to have the opportunity. She had been shot in the front leg and was about 80lbs underweight. They had been tracking her with a radio collar for a bear study so I understood why they wanted to get her help and continue to follow her for the study. It was exciting enough to think we had a chance to help an adult, but then came the miracle.....she also had a cub. Never in this lifetime or another one would I have thought that opportunity would come to pass. I’m not aware of any bear rehabbers who have had an adult and cub.

The cub had been appearing at residences looking for food and was in good shape, weighing 32 pounds. Fish & Game put out a culvert trap to capture the cub and instead caught mom. They took mom to the state wildlife lab where Dr. Mark Drew was able to get a look at her wounded front leg. Aside from being shot, the wrist was locked in place and she hadn’t been using it. During her movements she must have held the leg and paw up against her body. There were no wounds or loss of fur on the paw as there would be if she were dragging it on the ground to use for support. They reset the trap and captured the cub a day or so later. He joined mom (in a separate carrier) at the lab.

Malino and Hoa in a bear shelter
Mom arrives in the culvert trap
Hoa standing up leaning forward
Mom out on the "Mash" stretcher after being tranquilized

We arranged to meet with Fish & Game to transfer mom and cub to our main enclosure around noon on Wed 2/6. The cub was in a separate carrier and mom was still in the culvert trap. Dr. Mark Drew tranquilized her and they brought her back to the enclosure on our “Mash” stretcher.

They covered her eyes, monitored her breathing and took her temperature (102) during the whole procedure to inspect and clean the wound. There wasn’t enough tissue or skin to close the whole wound so Dr. Drew stitched the tissue over the exposed bone. Then the wound could heal and close on it’s own. For the next 10 days or so we will monitor how or if she uses that leg or just holds it up off the ground. Then Dr. Drew will make a decision on what to do about the wrist and if it can be broken to make it useable again.

Dr. Mark Drew cleans the open wound. Taking her temperature Malino and Hoa in a bear shelter

Cleaning the wound - taking the temperature - listening to the breathing

Preparing to stich the wound Inspecting the bone and open area Starting to stich over the bone

Preparing to stitch the wound - Inspecting the bone and open area - Starting to stitch over the bone

Malino and Hoa in a bear shelter Stitching up the wounded paw Hoa standing up leaning forward

Not much to work with, but bone is covered and now wound needs to heal

Malino and Hoa in a bear shelter Hoa standing up leaning forward Malino and Hoa in a bear shelter

All done - mom lying on hay in front of culvert den - cub sitting on roof of wood den watching us

We left them alone, but watched them with the monitor system and checked on them until mom was up on her feet. We purposely didn’t fill the swim tub because we didn’t want her trying to drink until she was completely back to normal. At least for the first few days we felt it was important to keep everything she needed in a confined area so she didn’t have to move long distances. We placed a small water tub near the den and the food. When she woke up, everything she needed, including her cub were nearby.

Everyone is just so excited and anticipating all the behavior and information we have the a chance to observe between mom and cub while they are here. We aren’t aware of any bear rehabbers who have had the opportunity to care for an adult or an adult with cub so the opportunity for learning behavior and interaction between the two is beyond measure and the value of what we learn can not only enhance our rehab methods, but provide insight into the cub’s behavior as well as the mother’s behavior. Sally is keeping detailed notes almost minute by minute of their activities and already we have witnessed some new behavior.

The cub had been pretty independent of mom as she was injured and spending most of her time in the den. He wandered around looking for food and then returned to her after that. We expected he would be all over the enclosure, but that hasn’t proven to be the case. After we left the enclosure he first went to mom and then over to eat dog food which was just a few feet away. At 202pm mom started raising her head and by 239pm she was sitting up. The cub then did something amazing to us. We have witnessed cubs pick up a mouthful of dog food and walk over to another cub & drop it down on the ground to share with them. Mom might have done that with her cub, but never did we imagine the cub would do it with mom. When he saw she was sitting up, he took a mouthful and dropped it right in front of her.

By 2:46pm she was standing on three feet, holding her injured leg off the ground close to her body. She leaned down & began eating the dog food her cub brought to her. Between 306pm and 401pm she very slowly worked her way around the back part of the enclosure from North to South. She never made any effort to explore the enclosure from the dens forward. She remained in back. Then she slowly came back to where the cub was eating dog food & joined him. She also ate fruit we scattered on the grass. Whenever we have an injured or severely underweight bear, we provide our bear formula regardless of age. It has proven itself time and again and we have never lost a bear from starvation. Mom was obviously a candidate for that. Every bear we used it with from cubs already weaned, to yearlings, to two year old Jaws who couldn’t eat and the two year old starved Nevada female always went for the formula first. It was as if they sensed it was the most important food they could have at that time. However, this was a 7yr old bear and none of us knew if she would react the same way towards the formula. The cub had taken a lick or two, but didn’t show any interest in drinking it. After eating some fruit & dog food she wandered over to the flat bin with the formula and lapped up the whole gallon.

Then she wandered to the far back corner behind the log piles and remained there with cub in tow until 5:47pm. The cub then came out to eat and mom went into the second culvert den (next to the one we thought she would use). For the next hour they were in the den, out to eat, back in the den. We lost visual with the monitor system until 1105pm & both mom and cub were in the culvert den she chose. Between 11:05pm and 7:45am they would appear then disappear into the dark area.


Although the cub came out a few times during the day, mom stayed in the den until dusk. She came out once to eat, but between 10:31am and 6:20pm, the cub came out 4 times to eat. Each time he returned to mom who was lying in the culvert den she picked for them. Finally at 6:29pm mom came out with cub in tow. She ate some fruit, drank half the formula and by 6:38pm was back by the den. From 6:38pm to 7:20am both were out off and on. Mom didn’t stay long at the food except the formula, but her cub is going to be a butterball if he keeps it up.


Not a happy bear
Could we have some privacy please?

No sign of either on at 7:20am, but at 10:45am the cub was heading towards water and suddenly stopped. His ears pointed and he was focused on something out in the pasture. Either he saw or heard something. Mom had been standing in front of the den about 15-20 feet from him and she bolted towards him. Up to then it took her 2-3 minutes just to move a few feet because she hobbled so slowly on her one good front foot. Sometimes she would even stop and lie down to rest for a couple of minutes. We don’t know if she spotted or heard whatever got the cub’s attention or if the cub made some noise, but she was right behind him in about 3 seconds. There was no slow hobbling at that moment and it’s the first real protective instinct towards him that we had observed since their arrival.

With her injury making it so difficult to travel, our guess is she had no choice but to let the cub go find food and hope he would be okay. In this situation, she had a couple of days of good food, rest, and she seemed to have no trouble getting to the cub quickly. We don’t know what they saw or heard, but after just a minute the cub turned back to the dog food & mom returned to the den.

From the first day we have kept a definite schedule and routine - same time - same routine - scatter food - add dog food if needed - check water, pick up scat. Even where we go each day to pick up scat is the same so at any given time mom knows what to expect and where we are. She is very calm, stays in the den with the cub and watches us. She has never threatened or vocalized a warning. Of course each day that she feels stronger and her leg hurts less could change that. We remain alert and cautious at all times. Wild animals do seem to grasp that we are trying to help them, but their wild instinct is powerful. With some animals, they just can’t get past that instinct enough to let us help. Usually, if they do manage to set aside their fear, at some point when they feel they don’t need help (whether we agree or not), the little bit of trust they gave us is gone. So with mom and cub we are always aware that could change at any time. Her personality does seem very mellow and that certainly helps us get the job done.

Between that episode and 5:47pm the cub was out eating several times. At 7:10pm mom and cub both came out to eat. She finished off the formula and by 7:55p she disappeared out of site. The camera provides some light, but it’s a bit like the ring around the moon - we can see some of the center, but outside that area it’s just dark. She was out again at 8:03pm, 3:06am, 4:03am, and 4:31am. We have figured out that cub has his own routine. If mom is in sight, he will come out to eat whenever he wants. Then he comes out with mom and eats again - pretty soon he is just going to explode!


Not a happy bear
Mom, who are these people?

One thing we noticed early on was that the cub focused mostly on the dog food. He ate grapes, but left the rest of the fruit and formula alone. On the second day, we watched as mom would eat and whatever she ate he would now eat where before he passed it by. We have always believed from scat we found after releasing cubs, that they knew what to eat and mom didn’t have to teach them - maybe show them where best to find the food. While we still believe that is true, it is obvious that the cub will try whatever he sees mom eating to see if he likes it.

At 9:57am both were in the den. Mom got a scare shortly after as a dog got out in the pasture. She was scared and running back and forth. We got the dog out and left her to settle down before going in to feed and clean. There was some concern that if she now felt this was not a safe place she would work hard to escape. However, once back in the den, she and the cub seemed calm again. We also expected she might threaten us or at the very least be nervous, maybe clapping her lips or woofing. Instead, she just watched calmly as she had each day before.

Cub came out several times to eat. Mom finally showed up at 6:19pm. The cub has now decided he likes the culvert den we first chose for mom. It had hay in it while the den mom had been using just has dirt. So when he wants to go back to a den, he will choose that one & let mom have the other one - as long as he can see her and know where she is, he will pick the first culvert den. It has warmed up (from 2 degrees to 36 degrees so it might be too warm for both of them in the one den. From 6:19pm until 5:40am she was moving around, resting to take weight off her good leg, eating, and just looking around. The cub would eat, go back to his favored den during that time. If mom got up and walked out of sight or moved a little farther away from him than 4-5 feet, he was out of the den and followed her.


Not a happy bear
It’s ok – they are going away now

From 7:10am to 3:34pm mom came out twice. The cub was with her both times, but he came out twice besides that by himself while she remained in the den. We lost visual until 9:14pm. When we got it back all the formula was gone along with some of the fruit. Mom and cub were both out of the den. The cub was inside the dog food feeder and mom was eating out the front tray. By 9:50pm the cub came out and returned to “his” favored den. Mom had wandered back between the two dens so the cub left his den and joined her. Mom came out later & it appeared at one point she was licking the wound, but the camera angle was poor so not sure - we haven’t seen her do that before. Until 1:00am the cub moved around from food to his den while mom eventually disappeared out of view of the camera into the shadows. At 1:16am mom showed up again and both remained eating dog food. We hadn’t seen either cub or mom eating apples and what we put out still seemed to be there each day. Fish & venison remained uneaten as well. After a couple of minutes at the dog food, mom turned her attention to an apple. Normally a bear would hold the apple between both paws and munch away. She couldn’t do that, but now seemed determined to get a bite of that apple. For the next 12 minutes she worked that apple around until she held it with one paw against her body and finally got a bite. The cub witnessed this and for the first time decided to try an apple. He reached out to grab it and the apple went rolling away. Hmmmm - that wasn’t what was supposed to happen so he went to another apple and left the rogue apple alone. It happened again - he obviously didn’t know quite what to make of it. Cubs in rehab never have trouble with apples, but maybe he hadn’t eaten apples before. After the third try he nailed it and ate his first apple. Since then the apples have been disappearing. Between 2:18am and 4:40am, both mom and cub were out eating a couple of times. The cub tended to return to his den rather than join mom as long as she was in sight and didn’t move more than a few feet away.

Since Wed, each day has been a learning experience for us, both in her behavior alone, her behavior with the cub, and the cub’s behavior alone and with her, and especially her behavior towards us as we feed & clean. We all hear about injured wildlife and how dangerous they can be and we all hear about mother bears protecting their cubs. Now we have both. Each bear has his or her own personality so toss that into the situation and the mind races with the possibilities. So far she is being very calm, very settled, very tolerant. However, she is an adult so her reasoning ability and her instincts are fine tuned. It comes down to which rules. I believe wildlife know when we are trying to help, but even so, sometimes the instinct just can’t let them trust even a little. So we shall see as the days go by. I’ll tell you what we are seeing so far as far as behavior and some of the fun things we have observed.

Update 2/24/13

Not a happy bear
Wish they would hurry up because I'm hungry & I know there is food out there.

She is eating all the foods that we normally provide starved bears, especially the formula. She goes for that (as most starved bears do) first & then moves on to the other food. The cub is quite funny – first his adorable sweetness of taking food to mom when she came out of the tranquilizer. Quite impressive and a bit unbelievable. When he is done eating, he can’t just turn around and go – he backs up several feet as if someone is in front of him pushing him. He eats on his own when it comes to the dog food, but with some of the other foods he waits for mom to eat & then he joins in. If we give them grapes, he eats those before mom has any chance to get some. We have figured out there is a method to his madness – eat dog food whenever I want, then eat everything again with mom. At that rate he is going to be a pudgy little ball and it’s mom that needs the weight.

Every day since mom and cub arrived has been interesting – sometimes the same as the day before (even so, something to be learned from that) and other days new experiences. We all hear how dangerous an injured wild animal can be and of course how protective bears are of their cubs. Mom is challenged in both ways and her cub is at that stage where he has a mind of his own and his first priority isn’t listening to mom. She has been so patient with us, but is losing her patience with him. While she drew that line in the sand with us & said don’t cross it and will let us know if we are taking too long picking up scat, she now has to deal with a sometimes unruly youngster who won’t listen to her & frequently crosses the line she gives him.

The cub always stays within sight of her & always follows her when she heads away from him, but he definitely has a mind of his own. In the beginning we fed first and picked up scat last thinking at least if she got nervous, we could leave & the food would be there which is what she needed most. The scat could wait until the next day. That has been working until this past week.

We started putting in formula from day one as our bear formula is a miracle worker when it comes to starved or underweight bears, cubs, yearlings, or older bears. As with all the bears, she knew instinctively and polished off a gallon of formula first and kept coming back hoping for more. So we increased it to two gallons a day. The cub didn’t show any interest in it during the first few days which surprised me. He had a good weight, but he is like an eating machine and all bears like the formula. He tried a lap or two, but then didn’t show any interest – until he saw how mom relished it. Suddenly we had to worry he was going to drink it all and she needed it - he didn’t. He comes out during the day about every two hours and drinks a little, eats dog food and fruit, but by dark when she comes out most of the formula is still there. He will join her while she is drinking it, but thankfully he doesn’t drink much of it.

During the time she was injured and not moving around much, he was left to find food on his own without her. She really had no choice except to let him go as he needed to. I think that contributed to his daily escapades out to eat every couple of hours. We are hoping as he realizes the food is there & he doesn’t have to go searching and leave mom, that he will settle into a routine that doesn’t include such frequent outings or we may have to buy him a treadmill.

This past week as mom patiently waited in the den for us to feed and clean, he decided his priority was to come out and eat whether we were done or not. While that wouldn’t bother us as we are used to working around cubs (now he is a yearling), it began to create a problem for mom. In the beginning, mom didn’t try to control him as she had her own concerns with being wounded and weak. As she got food in her and the wound was healing, she began to take charge of the cub. While still very good about our presence, her cub began to test her big time. She made it clear he was to stay in the den until we left. Day by day he made it clear he didn’t want to do that and challenged her authority each time. Her reaction was understandable – now she had to worry about him and keep an eye on us. Frustrated more with her cub than us, she lost patience and in her way of vocalizing and those “expressive” eyes made it clear something had to change.

So change we did – instead of feeding first we picked up scat. There was no need for the cub to be pushing to get out of the den because there was no food until just before we left. The first day he didn’t realize that, but by the next day he did and wasn’t so unruly. Mom didn’t have to vocalize at him or us and was very quiet. But, you know kids........ Today he simply decided food or no food he wanted out of the den. Mom actually pinned him to the side of the den and with her body blocked the entrance. We could hear some vocalizing between them and a bit of whining on his part. Mom thought she had him under control so we continued the scat pick up. Then as kids will do, he snuck out the back door. Well that was the last of her patience. The vocalizations started big him, not so much us and she was one unhappy bear. If she had two good paws, I think he would have gotten a good swat.

Seeing how upset she was at him and how unhappy she was about all of it, we stopped picking up scat, but made a small noise that sent the cub running back to the den. While it accomplished what was intended, startling the cub could have turned her attention to us in not so good a way. As it was, she didn’t seem to care how he got back to the den, just that he did. Mom calmed down then, but we decided to make it easier on her and just got the food down and left. Everything we try to do is to make her feel we are there to help her and help her care for the cub, not hurt her or the cub. It can be a daily challenge to interpret the situation – and a very interesting challenge.

We have contacted the vet to see when he might check her wound and make a decision on her wrist that is locked. She still doesn’t use it so the question becomes, can it be fixed or will she be a three-legged bear? Say prayers for her as we all hope it can be fixed. She can do fine with 3 legs and we know from watching her that she can move fast, but it’s wearing and tiring as any of us having used crutches can testify to.

We will get pictures as we can, but please understand it’s important not to be around her and to allow her and the cub to feel secure and free of disturbance so she can heal and be released as soon as possible. We will do snapshots from the monitor cameras, but as you all know, the system is failing – sometimes it works & sometimes it doesn’t and the quality is so poor. Odd that we are pushing so hard to replace the monitor system this year and this one scenario of mother and cub is when we need it most.

What we need the images to look like
The kind of photos we need
What we need the images actually look like
The kind of photos we get from the monitor system

We have escalated our Cub Cam Project 2013 to replace the monitor system. It has served it’s time and has been failing for the past year or so. Pictures are such poor quality and video seems to be disappearing each day. See Fundraising Projects on our website for more information.

We haven’t named either one, but will. I’m not a fan of using numbers. Number 200 something means nothing to me, but Kapalua does so we’ll pick a couple of names in the next week or so. The close-up pictures of mother & cub in the den were taken with our camera, but we were 15-20 feet away. The others are snapshots taken with the monitor system during their time out of the den, mostly at night. See our Facebook for more frequent updates & monitor pictures of mom and her cub.