By Heidi Zemach for SCN -
A small black bear cub of the year, believed to have been recently orphaned, was captured near Spring Creek Correctional Facility Wednesday night, and is being held captive while the Alaska Department of Fish and Game searches for a licensed home willing to take it. The cub is believed to be one of three cubs seen wandering the parking area since the Seward Police shot and wounded an adult black bear that was trying to get into employees vehicles last weekend. That bear, probably the cub’s mother, ran off into the woods after being shot, and the next morning the Seward Police searched a blood trail but were unable to locate it or its carcass.
Jeff Selinger, the Kenai Area Wildlife Biologist for ADF&G, was apprised of the situation, and has been monitoring it since the event. Three bear cubs showed up once or twice, then weren’t seen for a few days until the lone cub showed up again Wednesday night and was captured, Selinger said.
Typically, bear cubs of the year born around January, in their mother’s dens would now weigh about 25-30 pounds.
Tom Schumacher, Fish and Game’s Alaska permitter, has been going to great lengths to search for a licensed facility willing to accept the cub, and has even been searching nationally and internationally, Selinger said. But as of Thursday afternoon, they had not heard anything promising. If the state cannot find a placement for the cub, they will humanely euthanize it, as they believe it would have little chance of survival on its own, and would either slowly starve to death, or be eaten by predators.
In his 11 years serving as a biologist in the Kenai Peninsula area, there has not been a single year when they have not dealt with one or more orphaned brown bear cubs, he said. Licensed facilities are few and far between however, and the bears they adopt tend to live long lives, so there is not a high turnover.
Well-meaning people often offer to take in bear cubs, but to legally adopt a bear, facilities have to meet very specific criteria before the state will allow them to receive an animal—for the animal’s own protection, Selinger said.
A few facts about DLP’s and bear hunting:
There were 17 separate incidents of brown bears killed “in defense of life or property,” or DLP on the Kenai Peninsula so far this year, plus two other cubs who ran off and were believed to have died when their mother was shot. Last year, by comparison, there were only eight brown bear DLPs, but there were 20 and 22 respectively, in the preceding years.
The number of black bear DLPs are not considered as accurate, as they often are marked as harvested (or hunted) rather than as DLP bears, Selinger said.
The Alaska Board of Game’s new regulated bear hunting season that opened September 1st and lasts through May 31st has been going gangbusters, with 38 confirmed brown bear harvests on the Kenai Peninsula, and another single unconfirmed harvest. That’s a record number of bears hunted. Last year, a record 31 brown bears were harvested from drawing permits and the registration hunt. Prior to that, the record had been 21 brown bears killed in 1993. In the years 2000-2011, zero to seven bears were harvested annually.