Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bear cubs face bleak future after pair’s mother killed

By K.C. Mehaffey, The Spokesman Review

Wildlife officials rule out relocation

Wildlife officials say they might have to euthanize two 8-month-old bear cubs that were orphaned Thursday night when a man shot and killed their mother as it fought with his dog.
The adult bear was probably attracted to the Leavenworth-area home by birdseed, pet food and gardens, a wildlife official said.
The cubs might be killed because there is no room at the two major rehabilitation facilities in Washington that raise orphaned bears without human contact until they’re ready to release into the wild, said Rich Beausoleil, bear and cougar specialist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Other options are being sought for the two 35-pound cubs.
“Relocation is just not an option,” he said. “Research has shown that if we turn them out in the hills, they wouldn’t survive the winter.”
Friday morning Beausoleil went to a home on Icicle Creek Road with wildlife officer Eric Oswald, where they found the mother bear dead in the yard and two cubs on the porch of the home eating carrots.
Oswald said the homeowners felt sorry for the cubs, and fed them. He said birdseed probably attracted the mother bear into the yard.
Oswald said the man who shot the bear told him that he thought he heard raccoons making noise outside late Thursday, so he let their two dogs out to chase them off. One of the dogs, a pit bull, got into a fight with the bear, so the man got a rifle and shot the bear once in the throat from about 20 feet away, killing her, Oswald said.
The man, in his 30s, will not be cited for shooting the bear. He felt threatened for his safety and for his dog’s, he said.
The homeowner – the man’s grandmother – reported the incident Thursday night.
“All of this could have been prevented by, No. 1, not keeping food out for bears as an attractant, and 2, keeping pets in and under control,” Oswald said.
Already this year, Fish and Wildlife officers have dealt with 18 bears in the Leavenworth area – including this mother and her two cubs – that have been turning up in people’s yards. Most of the bears were relocated, he said. But three others were killed in May, two of them by homeowners and another euthanized by wildlife officials. Almost all of them were attracted to the rural homes by food, Beausoleil said.

Update September 14, 2010 10:01pm - The following article is by K.C. Mehaffey, The Wenatchee World:
State finds winter home for orphaned bear cubs

Two orphaned black-bear cubs who were on death row Friday will instead get a six-month vacation in Idaho

Two black-bear cubs who were on death row Friday will instead get a six-month vacation in Idaho.
Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary in McCall, Idaho, agreed Monday to take the 8-month-old male cubs that were orphaned when a Leavenworth-area man shot their mother, said Rich Beausoleil, bear and cougar specialist for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
State officials believed Friday the cubs might have to be euthanized after two other rehabilitation facilities reported they were full and couldn't take the cubs. They include Idaho Black Bear Rehab in Garden City, Idaho, and PAWS in Lynnwood.
Snowdon is a privately operated facility funded through donations, grants and volunteers. The state will not be charged for sending them there, Beausoleil said.
He said his agency plans to transport the cubs there Wednesday and will retrieve them in the spring to release them back into the wild once other bears begin to emerge from their dens in North Central Washington.
"Their natural instinct at that time of year will be to stay together in March and April, until the beginning of June, and then they split up," he said.
They will have ear tags and radio collars so wildlife officials will know if they become a nuisance after their release, he said.
"At this point, they don't have a strike against them," he said, because they were not causing any problems when they were captured at the residence where their mother had been shot Friday.
The man who shot her told enforcement officers that raccoons had been frequenting their place, so he let two dogs out to chase them off, then realized it was a bear when he followed them out and found his pit bull acting aggressively toward her. He was not cited.
Beausoleil said the shooting was avoidable, however. Bird seed and pet food attracted the bears to the property.
The best way to prevent nuisance bears is not to leave any food sources, including garbage, pet or bird seed, fruit or ripe garden food outside for the bears to eat, he said.
"We've documented it. When the food source dries up, they don't come around anymore," he said.
These are the 12th and 13th black-bear cubs that state Wildlife officials have sent to a rehabilitation center since spring, he said.
Beausoleil said he remembers one other year in the past eight when a dozen or more cubs were placed in a rehabilitation facility, but that's certainly higher than usual. The poor berry crop means bears are moving around more than they usually do, but people can prevent problems by making sure there's nothing outside their homes for bears to eat, he said.
Cubs that are sent to rehabilitation facilities have a good chance of surviving into adulthood, he said.
Cubs rehabilitated at one of these private facilities and returned to the wild don't often get into trouble after their release, Beausoleil said. Over the past several years, he's sent 25 cubs to one of the rehab centers and released them the next spring, and has had to euthanize only two of them for getting too close to people, he said.
"The others we have never heard from again. Sometimes, they get taken in a hunt several years later," he said.

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