By Karen Morfitt

TELLER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Orphaned bears are getting another chance at life in the wild thanks to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Officers rescued the cubs at different times last year and moved them to a rehabilitation facility in southern Colorado until its time to hibernate.

That is when CPW comes back in.

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“What people don’t understand is this is our passion,” District Manger Cody Wigner said.

The bears are sedated, loaded up and then driven nearly 100 miles to an undisclosed location in the mountains. Wigner and about a half a dozen other wildlife officers are on hand to help.

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“It’s kind of bitter sweet. I guess the sweet part is these cubs are having another chance, the sad part of it is they are orphaned, their mothers died,” he said.

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Once in the mountains the bears are loaded onto sleds, strapped in, their paws tied and eyes covered. Then they are hauled through the snow.

“It’s waking up a little bit, not liking the sled ride too much,” Wigner said while moving one of the cubs down a steep slope.

The destination are handmade artificial dens.

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“We build it so they are able to survive in the winter nice and warm,” Wigner said.

Officers then place each of the nearly 100 lb. bears inside.

“The first one’s head is pointed up, and the other one is kind of pointed up. Just want to make sure their heads are up so they can breathe while they are sedated,” area manager Tim Kroening said.

When the drugs wear off, the hope is the bears continue to hibernate in the den until spring. Ideally, wildlife officers never see them again.

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For Wigner and the rest of the parks and wildlife team, it is not easy work, but it is the job they signed up to do.

“This is our life blood. This is what I enjoy doing the most. Its managing wildlife, helping be their voice and giving them a second chance,” Wigner said.

Karen Morfitt

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