Fall is the time of year when we see visible signs of change. The leaves turn colour and finally drop off, leaving bare branches; squirrels and chipmunks are busily gathering food caches to tide them over the winter; deer fatten; bears pack on the pounds in preparation for hibernation; beavers put together their feed beds, accessible from their underwater dive holes; ducks and geese fly south.
Orphaned bear cubs underweight for hibernation.
This tiny bear cub was taken to the sanctuary from Nobel recently.
It is also the time of year when you may see a young hungry bear cub attempting to raid your bird feeder.
While bears naturally rely on berries, acorns and other nuts, and fallen apples to appease their hunger, they can’t resist easy temptations.
Just recently we received a phone call from Nobel reporting a young cub that had been hanging around a bird feeder for a few days and had been seeking shelter under their porch.
They were very concerned that the cub was an orphan, as it was very small and there was no mother visible in the area.
Aspen staff managed to entice the cub into the trap with food. It’s Aspen Valley’s routine to weigh all animals when they arrive, and this little fellow weighed in at only 29 pounds – way below what he should have in order to survive the winter’s hibernation.
Most cubs that come in near starving spend the first few days of rehabilitation sprawled out, sleeping, sometimes looking purely exhausted, on their backs with their paws in the air.
We can’t tell if it’s just exhaustion, or a sort of relief that they finally have full bellies after days or weeks of struggling to stay alive without the guidance of a mother bear.
He is now in a snug enclosure, eating lots of good food and gaining weight; and soon he will be taken up to one of the large bear enclosures to join another Parry Sound bear, where they will be far from people and where they can spend the winter safe and warm in a den prepared for them.
This is one lucky orphan. He wasn’t the last lucky orphan.
On Tuesday another hungry cub was found in a pine tree in someone’s backyard in an area where the Ministry of Natural Resources knew a female bear had been recently shot and killed.
This cub, weighing in at 27 pounds, is also now spending most of her time asleep, and in a couple weeks will soon make her way up to the big enclosure to make new friends as well.
We hope that’s the end of lost cubs, but based on past seasons, anticipate receiving similar calls telling us of yet another cub who needs help.
We will of course do our best to bring it safely to Aspen Valley.
(These weekly articles are contributed by staff at the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife with a mandate to educate the public towards a better understanding of local fauna.)