Last week she was facing a cruel fate, but now an orphaned Wyoming black bear cub named Alice is safe and sound at an Idaho bear rescue center, where she’s gained an adoring online fan base.
It was thanks to decisive action by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department that Alice has a chance to survive and live free again, wildlife photographer Anitia Wooldridge told Cowboy State Daily.
She was among those who had been watching the cub, which showed up alone in the small community of Kelly northeast of Jackson.
“I found out that it ran toward the river and I thought, ‘Oh my god, you know, it's not going to survive, it doesn't have a mom and can't go into hibernation,’” she said.
No Sign Of Mom
Game and Fish started getting reports of the cub last week, and kept an eye in it in hopes that its mother might appear, said Mark Gocke, the agency’s Jackson area spokesman.
“There was no sign of an adult bear for a couple of days. So, at least in our eyes, that confirmed that this bear had been orphaned,” he told Cowboy State Daily.
The fate of the cub’s mother remains a mystery, Gocke added.
The cub was initially discovered apparently stuck in a fork in the trunk of a cottonwood tree, but after wildlife agents freed it from that predicament, it fled toward the river.
It later showed up under a homeowner’s porch in Kelly.
Game and Fish decided to trap the cub, Gocke said. Large Carnivore Biologist Mike Boyce pulled that off with no harm to the little bear.
It was determined to be a cub of the year (COY) that was probably born in a winter den sometime in February and emerged with its mother in May.
“He (Boyce) said it was really malnourished and undersized for what it should have been this time of year,” Gocke said. “It had very little chance of surviving the winter given the shape it was in.”
We Know Who To Call
The cub was in safe hands, but Game and Fish couldn’t care for it over the long term, Gocke said. So they called Idaho Black Bear Rehab (IBBR) in Garden City, Idaho.
“We gave them a call just to see if they had capacity for this cub, and they did,” he said. “We have used them before.”
Amy Kidwell runs IBBR and told Cowboy State Daily that the cub was in rough shape when she took it in and named it Alice.
Alice was only about 15 pounds, but eagerly took to eating, Kidwell said.
“Visually, I can see she’s gained weight,” Kidwell said Wednesday. “I’ve been giving her some good, fatty foods.”
Kidwell added that she hadn’t re-weighed Alice because she didn’t want to put the cub through being tranquilized and examined until it had more time to adjust to its new surroundings.
Back Home This Summer
Given her experience with cubs of that age in captivity, Kidwell said she doesn’t expect Alice to go into full hibernation this winter, but “she’ll probably slow down a lot.”
Meanwhile, photos of Alice have been blowing up on social media and people are keenly interested in the cub’s progress.
Kidwell added that she’s been giving Alice her space, providing food and keeping an eye on the cub through remote cameras. IBBR’s goal is to return orphaned cubs to the wild.
“We have a great success rate, especially with these Wyoming bears,” she said. “They just have some amazing places in Wyoming to release bears back into the wild.”
IBBR handles only black bear cubs, not orphaned grizzlies, she added.
If all goes well, Alice will be taken back to Wyoming and released in June, Kidwell said.
That approached has worked well with orphaned black bears taken in by IBBR and returned to Wyoming, Gocke said.
“We’ve never had any more contact with these bears after they’ve been released back into the wild,” he said. “And ultimately as a wildlife manager, that’s what you want, for the bears to live out their natural lives.”
Mark Heinz can be reached at email@example.com.