By Kellie Benz, PAWS Staff
Teenagers and pizza are a very common pairing in today’s world. When that teenager is a young American Black Bear, however, it can be a first strike toward impending doom.
Recently, PAWS took in a teenage American Black Bear who gambled on human food and got very close to losing. We don’t name wild animals here, our Wildlife Hospital’s goal is to get our patients healthy and return them to the habitat that they play a vital role in. Instead, staff identified this young cub as #2014-1317 while she is in our care.
From all signs, we think American Black Bear #2014-1317 is about a year old, a cub probably born last spring in the wilderness outside Redmond, WA. Mother Black bears typically wean their cubs around 6 months, some as late as 8 months, but the cubs can often forage with the mom for up to a year. For #2014-1317 she appeared to be alone, trying to survive in an area dense with other bigger, tougher, older bears, none of them were her mother.
Neighbors noticed her digging through garbage bins, seeking scraps of food and breaking into bird feeders in search of the nuts and seeds she would normally forage for in the wild. In light of her ‘criminal acts’, garbage bins were better secured and bird feeders were moved out of reach. Still, she tried to look for food until neighbors reported her to authorities.
Failure To Thrive
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officer who placed her status as ‘failure to thrive’ and brought her to PAWS estimates that she hadn’t eaten for more than 2 days. As PAWS medical staff prepared to sedate her (for a full exam), her low growls and lunging proved she still had a lot of wild in her. But her energy was low. She was spent and she arrived to PAWS just in time.
When PAWS veterinarian, Dr. Groves, was able to examine her (pictured right), it was verified just how underweight she really was.
A few weeks ago, PAWS released an American Black Bear back to the wild in Oregon. That bear was just over a year old and 112 lbs.
American Black Bear #2014-1317 weighed in at a dangerous 66 lbs. The rest of her exam yielded no other concerns, save for her frayed claws from digging in metal garbage bins for the meager scraps of human food she could find.
American Black Bears (Ursus Americanus) once roamed all of the wooded areas of North America. Human growth and development has pushed them into smaller and smaller forests, our most remote areas. In the United States, current population statistics report about 300,000 individual black bears across 40 states. Sub-species of the American Black Bear are the Louisiana Black Bear (Ursus americanus luteolu) and Florida Black Bear (Ursus americanus floridanus). The Louisiana Black Bear remains on the Federal threatened species list. Washington State’s American Black Bear populations are being edged further and further out of the habitat they have always roamed, and the transition hasn’t been easy.
Bear #2014-1317 is one of the lucky ones. A fed bear is a dead bear is a reality for American Black Bears today when people encroach on their habitat, and create easy and unnatural food opportunities for wild animals.
She’ll have a chance now at PAWS to regain her strength and be introduced to the type of native foods she will encounter upon her release.
After she recovered from her sedation, American Black Bear #2014-1317 took a few sips of fresh water, possibly her first in days. In the PAWS Wildlife Hospital kitchen, volunteers prepared a meal more befitting a bear, tastes and textures she’s probably never experienced before. On the menu tonight will be a small combination of natural foods such as fish, berries and an assortment of other items nutritionally suitable for a half-starved bear.
Next Month's Update: Rehabilitating an American Black Bear
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