Thursday, March 23, 2023
March 23, 2023

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Woodland Park Zoo welcomes second bear cub — an orphan from Montana


SEATTLE — Woodland Park Zoo has welcomed another bear cub — a 9-month-old orphaned grizzly from Montana.

The 95-pounder joins Juniper, a brown bear cub the zoo welcomed mid-July from Anchorage, Woodland Park said in an announcement this week. The new cub, yet to be named, landed in Seattle in early October and is waiting out a 30-day quarantine at the zoo’s hospital, a standard practice for new animals, according to the announcement.

While Woodland Park teams are excited to welcome a new baby bear, her journey to Seattle was cloaked in tragedy.

The cub was orphaned in late September after Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks euthanized her mother, who had been breaking into a fenced compound, wandering around a home that had no food or “unsecured attractants” and killing chickens that were protected by electric fencing, the zoo said.

She was largely unfazed by rubber bullets, paintballs and noisemaking devices and had been captured and relocated twice in recent years because of similar conflicts, the zoo said.

Wildlife teams ultimately captured the adult female grizzly on private property in the Gardiner Basin of Yellowstone National Park on Sept. 20.

“Unfortunately, human-bear conflicts are quite common,” said Kevin Murphy, Woodland Park’s interim senior director of animal management. “That’s why being bear smart is critical to reduce these conflicts. Coexisting with large, dangerous carnivores is challenging and one must remain vigilant.”

Because bears can have more than a 2,000-mile home range, moving those who start getting too close to humans to a remote location is “generally not successful” in the long term, he said.

While it’s “very unfortunate” the cub lost her mother, the zoo is well-equipped to rescue another bear, Murphy said.

“We’re very hopeful the two bears will enjoy one another’s company — playing, swimming, eating — and be wonderful companions for years to come,” he added.

A name for the newest Woodland Park family member will be chosen by a donor, zoo spokesperson Gigi Allianic said in an email.

Woodland Park is also home to a third brown bear, a 28-year-old grizzly named Keema, who arrived with his brother, Denali, in 1994 from the Washington State University Bear Center.

Denali died in December 2020 due to old age.

While Keema won’t be introduced to the cubs, he’ll be able to see and smell them “behind the scenes,” the zoo said.

Meanwhile, Juniper is “doing well and settling in,” according to Woodland Park. Once the new cub completes quarantine, she’ll join Juniper in the zoo’s Living Northwest Trail, which offers a stream, a bear-sized swimming pool, rocks, tree stumps for scratching posts and a winter nap cave.

“Decades of effort and research make it clear that grizzlies — once a critical component of the North Cascades ecosystem where they roamed for thousands of years — are now unable to recover without human assistance,” Robert Long, director of Woodland Park Zoo’s Living Northwest conservation program, said in the statement. “Grizzly recovery is not only logistically feasible and ecologically important but supported by most Washingtonians. It’s time to bring the grizzly back to the North Cascades.”