Good night, and good luck: Tahoe wildlife officials release cubs for hibernation
February 3, 2010
TAHOE NATIONAL FOREST, Calif. and#8212; Jason Holley carefully lowered brother and sister bears into their new home for winter Wednesday afternoon, hoping when they wake up in the spring, they won’t see people again.
The 1-year-old black bear cubs were orphaned last June, when their mother was shot in the Carnelian Bay area. After a few months at the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care center, Holley, a biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game, along with others from Fish and Game and the staff of the Sagehen Creek Field Station, sent them off into hibernation north of Truckee.
and#8220;This is all about giving these bears another chance to be wild,and#8221; Holley said.
The cubs had to be deemed old enough and heavy enough and#8212; about 100 pounds each and#8212; to make it through to spring, he said.
Then, Wednesday morning, the siblings were sedated and put into a manmade den (similar to a dog kennel buried in the snow).
If everything goes right, they’ll wake up not habituated to humans, and the only contact anyone will have with them is by radio tags on their ears, which will allow Jeff Brown and the others at the Sagehen Field Station to track them.
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Last year when cubs were released into hibernation in the same manner, the results were mixed, Brown said.
A few cubs stayed wild, ending up in places such as Independence Lake and Verdi.
But another wandered back to the Sagehen station.
and#8220;He came to the house and ripped up the side of the house and#8212; he had sniffed out a seed cache the mice had made,and#8221; Brown said. and#8220;We tried to catch him, but we haven’t seen him since. I think he figured out how to be a wild bear.and#8221;
This year, along with the radio tags, a motion sensor camera outside the den will help researchers track the cubs.
Holley cautioned that while the Department of Fish and Game rehabilitates and reintroduces bear cubs regularly, people shouldn’t approach what they may think is an abandoned cub and#8212; a protective sow may just be out of site.
The Sagehen Field Station, a joint venture between UC Berkeley and the U.S. Forest Service north of Truckee, may expand its bear reintroduction abilities in the future, Brown said.
A larger rehab facility could help release bears into the wild, provide valuable research into bear behavior and even create some public education opportunities, he said.
and#8220;We have some funding and#8212; however, given the state’s financial situation, it’s unlikely to happen in the next couple years,and#8221; said Marc Kenyon, coordinator for black bears, mountain lions and wild pigs for the Department of Fish and Game.