Two bear cubs captured near Dove Creek last week after their mother killed by a vehicle on U.S. Highway 491 will be rehabilitated and released into the wild, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“They seem to be in good shape and were not injured,” said CPW wildlife manager Matt Thorpe.
To capture the frightened cubs, who were hiding high in a tree, wildlife officials placed the mother’s carcass in a trap under the tree to lure them in.
The cubs were transferred to the Frisco Creek Wildlife Center in Del Norte, Colorado where they will be fattened up through the summer with their natural foods. They will be isolated in an enclosure and never see or be handled by humans to keep them from associating humans as a food source.
This winter, wildlife officials plan to build an artificial den for the cubs within the wider home range where they were captured. The Glade area, about 15 miles east of Dove Creek in San Juan National Forest, is one possibility.
“It is their natural instinct to den up and hibernate,” Thorpe said.
The dark den is built in a secure location and is made up of fallen logs, hay bales and sometimes a crate, he said. In spring, after the bears wake up and push away a straw bale, their return to the wild becomes official.
Parks and Wildlife’s release program sets up the orphaned cubs for success as much as possible, Thorpe said, but once in the wild, nothing is guaranteed. Even with a mother, cub mortality is not uncommon.
The timetable of their release is close to the natural cycle when they would be on their own.