SEWARD, Alaska – The life of an orphaned black bear cub that was captured by Alaska State Troopers at Spring Creek Correctional Center has been spared. The young cub was transported yesterday to his new home in Sitka, at the Fortress of the Bear, a nonprofit, educational sanctuary where brown bears rule. Thursday afternoon family members of the Fortress owners, who live in Anchorage, picked up the cub from the Seward Animal Shelter where the cub has been kept since last Wednesday. They drove it out to the airport, where it was to be flown to Sitka in its kennel.
“This is an unusual circumstance, a very unique circumstance,” said Tony Kavalok, Assistant Director of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Wildlife Conservation Division. “Usually we wouldn’t have gone to such effort.”
It wasn’t just the amount of sympathetic media and viral social media attention that saved the cub’s hide, Kavlok said. It was also that the Fortress of the Bear, which had not been looking for a black bear until now, stepped up and decided to take it in, and then did all the work it needed to do in order for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to permit it, based on the operations plans for its care that they submitted.
It also helped that coincidentally, when the Alaska State Troopers were called out to Spring Creek last Wednesday night, a TV film crew from the Alaska State Troopers television series was in town, filming. Rather than shoot the cub, they allowed it to be captured, and gave Shelli McDowell, the director of the Seward Animal Shelter time to help locate an acceptable adoptive home.
As luck would have it, another black bear cub from Juneau of the same age may soon be on its way to the Sitka facility to join the Seward cub, said Fortress Owner Evy Kinnear. They plan to meet the cub at the Sitka airport at around 5:00 a.m. Friday morning.
“Shelli and Debbie were just amazing people to work with,” said Kinnear, referring to the folks at the Seward Animal Shelter. “They saved this little cub’s life and we’re so grateful for that. And the people of Seward seemed to be in support of that. We can’t thank them enough for the work that they’re doing,” she said.
The reality is that the number of bears that ADF&G has to deal with during the course of any given year is significantly higher than there are facilities available to place them, according to Kavlock. Black bears are fairly common in Alaska and in the Lower 48. They number well above 100 thousand in Alaska, according to Fish & Game estimates, and they’re also found in about 45 other states. They can live around 15-20 years in captivity, so finding facilities willing to take on another black bear for that length of time is difficult. “Do the math,” Kavalok said. Brown bears are less prevalent, and thus easier to find homes for Outside the state.