Idaho

Orphaned bear cubs spent a year at Garden City rehab. Watch them return to the wild.

They were rescued on the 4th of July and rehabilitated, now they are back in the wilderness

America and Liberty, two orphaned bear cubs that were rescued and rehabilitated by the Idaho Black Bear Rehab, were released into the wilderness of Washington on Tuesday, May 29, 2018.
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America and Liberty, two orphaned bear cubs that were rescued and rehabilitated by the Idaho Black Bear Rehab, were released into the wilderness of Washington on Tuesday, May 29, 2018.

5/30/2018 update:

Nearly a year after they were rescued, America and Liberty were released back into the wild near Washington's Spokane Valley, according to Idaho Black Bear Rehab staff.

"Looks like normal - Liberty running headlong & America chasing right behind her. They will most likely stay together for a little while, but if not each is capable of handling their own lives," IBBR founder Sally Maughan wrote on Facebook.

The bears were both ear tagged and radio collared before their release. IBBR is holding a quilt raffle to raise money for the tracking collars.

"They must be thrilled with their freedom and that lush environment, but I do wonder if they get a little scared at first," wrote IBBR's Amy Kidwell on Facebook. "In no time, they'll be chasing through the trees, rolling down hills, and belly flopping into water. A whole secret life we don't get to be a part of, but a good life for them."

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This week, a Garden City wildlife rehabilitation center welcomed two cute new additions — but their arrival isn’t all rosy.

The cubs, which rescuers at Idaho Black Bear Rehab believe are both female, were brought in on July 4 after their mother was shot and killed in the Kings Lake area of Washington State.

“Someone felt threatened by the mom and shot her,” explained Sally Maughan, founder and president of IBBR. “Then they discovered the cubs and contacted Fish and Wildlife, who got in touch with us.”

Because the orphans were brought in on Independence Day, the IBBR staff thought it was only fitting that the pair have patriotic names. America and Liberty (or Abearica and Libearty) are about four months old, Maughan estimated.

For now, IBBR staffers haven’t assigned the names to either cub in particular. Sally said the little bears’ personalities will become more apparent as they grow, and the names will stick then.

America and Liberty will likely be released into the wild next year in the late spring. Maughan, who said she doesn’t think “a life in captivity is appropriate” for bears, expects the pair will likely be taken back to the Washington wilderness where they were found. But right now, the small cubs — one chocolate brown and the other black — are being formula-fed and exploring their new environment as rehabbers give them time to settle in.

“They need to feel secure,” Maughan said. “Their world’s been turned upside down.”

The bear cubs arrived at IBBR amid a nationwide boom in stories about bear attacks and intrusions — also on the Fourth of July, a black bear attacked a 60-year-old woman hiking with her two dogs in North Idaho. A teenager in Alaska was killed last month by a bear after the boy got lost running a race.A professional runner in Maine recently survived pursuit by two bears.And a bear in Colorado was caught on camera scavenging through a kitchen as homeowners slept through the whole thing.

Maughan explained that the folks at IBBR aren’t necessarily anti-hunting. In fact, she said, several hunters donate venison to the rehab to help feed the bears. Maughan said IBBR emphasizes being BearWise in order to avoid conflicts and run-ins with the wild animals.

“I wasn’t the person who shot (the cubs’) mom, and I don’t feel I have the right to judge,” Maughan said. “I know they felt threatened, and I hope they made the right call.”

What’s important to Maughan now, she said, is the fact that America and Liberty made their way to IBBR.

“You always wish there were no orphan cubs, but we are so glad they were found,” Maughan said.

Nicole Blanchard: 208-377-6410, @NMBlanchard

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