Bear cub awaits home in a zoo

    State veterinarians are looking across the continent for an accredited zoo that will take in the likely orphaned black bear cub captured Jan. 6 outside Phoenix after it fell out of a tree.

    Colin Gillin, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's state veterinarian, said a Washington bear rehabilitation facility is full and incapable of taking in the scrawny, 13.2-pound, yet otherwise healthy, year-old bear.

    Gillin has twice reached out to all Association of Zoos and Aquariums members in North America through the Internet in hopes that someone would want the bear still housed in a rural Corvallis holding pen.

    ODFW's policy is to place such animals only in AZA-accredited facilities.

    "I'm shooting for a zoo," Gillin said. "If that doesn't work out, I don't know. I don't have a Plan C. I should hear something this week."

    While some rehab centers might step forward and say they will care for the cub until it can be released in Southern Oregon next spring, agency biologists are wary of who and how the rehab is conducted, Gillin said.

    Cubs like this are susceptible to habituation to humans very quickly, and bad habits learned in rehab could lead to human conflicts after it is returned to the wild, Gillin said.

    "We don't want to get a habituated bear back and release it," Gillin said. "Rehab is a tricky business. We really want to make sure we provide the best sort of care for Oregon wildlife."

    Agency officials are scrambling to find a home for the bear after blood and urine screening showed no red flags regarding its health, making it a candidate for release if it remains fearful of humans, Gillin said.

    The cub had been seen in several trees between south Medford and north Phoenix before it was captured by an ODFW biologist who found it upside down in blackberries.

    Its size and signs of poor nourishment have led ODFW biologists to believe it was most likely orphaned before its mother taught it foraging skills.

    The animal was held at the Denman Wildlife Area, then whisked Jan. 7 to ODFW's E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area outside of Corvallis, where it remains in isolation.

    Bears habituated to people are normally euthanized because they are poor candidates for release.

    Under most circumstances, biologists recommend that people who find a treed bear simply give it space and opportunity to leave on its own.

    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or Follow him at

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