Illegal hunt leaves bear sow dead, cub orphaned
An orphaned brown bear cub will spend the rest of its life in captivity following the illegal take of his mother two weeks ago. The small bear was found near the carcass of the sow and is currently in the care of the Alaska Zoo.
Alaska Wildlife Trooper Maggie Stang received a report on April 29 of an illegal bear kill near Venetia Creek, about 35 miles north of Nome. In the early morning hours of Monday, April 30, she snowmachined to the kill site guided by the reporting party and found the shot bear. Stang inferred from the way the projectiles were lodged that the bear was shot while running away from the shooter. The bear was a lactating, young female grizzly. While neither skull, hide nor meat was taken, the bear was missing some the front feet’s claws. No internal organs were removed.
After completing her investigation at the kill site, Stang looked for signs of the bear’s offspring. A raven circling gave away the location of a cub nearby. “A raven almost as big as the cub flew overhead,” said Stang. Stang captured the bear cub and loaded him in a bag. She said it was not running off, but that the baby bear was confused and weakened from having been without food for a couple of days in inclement, stormy weather. However, the cub was putting on a bit of a fight when she caught him. Stang held the cub, opened her bag and put him inside. After she zipped up the bag, he immediately quieted down, she said.
Stang than drove up to a point where she had cell phone reception and consulted with her supervisor. The supervisor then notified the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game in Nome, and in a subsequent phone call, Stang was instructed to take the cub to town, where ADF&G officials would await the animal. Before riding off to town, Stang and the reporting party searched the area if there were more orphaned cubs, but didn’t find signs of any bear around.
In the meantime, ADF&G officials squared away permitting requirements in order to handle the cub and found a permitted facility that would be able to take the cub.
ADF&G area manager Bill Dunker said the cub is approximately three or four months old. “It’s pretty rare that we come across a bear cub that age,” Dunker said. He said that state regulations preclude the killing of bear sows accompanied by cubs under two-years of age and the killing of cubs. After being cared for by ADF&G staff, the cub was transported that same evening, on April 30, on the evening flight from Nome to Anchorage, where it now resides in the Alaska Zoo.
Alaska Zoo Executive Director Patrick Lampi said the cub was very small for its age and weighed only 10 pounds. Zoo personnel named the male cub “Theodore” and he is adjusting to life behind bars. Lampi said the cub is eating well, shows a very good appetite and a good attitude. He is for now eating puppy chow mixed with formula and soon will be introduced to salmon. The cub is kept isolated from other bears in the zoo as there are no cubs his age in the zoo currently. Lampi said last year they received a record number of orphaned bears: six brown bears and five black bears. Human-bear conflicts in urban areas often end in killed bears, which leaves their offspring either dead in nature or cared for in human facilities. In regular years, Lampi said, the zoo sees about two to three cubs per year that are taken in. “Usually what happens is that their mothers get shot,” Lampi said. He said he can’t remember a cub being delivered from Nome, but that the zoo is a permitted facility to take animals from all across the state. Theodore already has a home lined up for him. He will stay until late June in the Alaska Zoo and then will be rehomed to the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Washington state.
The investigation into the illegal take of Theodore’s mother is ongoing. Stang said that multiple crimes were committed, the most serious one being wanton waste, taking a sow with a cub and failing to salvage. She added that the sight of the circling raven made her heart sink. She explained that ravens don’t just feed on their prey, but attack living but weak animals and peck out their eyes. This would have been a very slow and painful death for the cub. “This was not Mother Nature taking its course, this was negligence and recklessness on behalf of the person who took the sow,” she said.
The Alaska State Troopers are asking for anyone with information on this event to call the Alaska Wildlife Trooper in Nome at (907) 443-2429, call or text Stang’s cell phone at 907-987-6710 or email her at Margaret.firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Wildlife Safeguard toll-free number at 800-478-3377.