SOUTH PARK, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado Parks and Wildlife have placed nearly all of its orphaned bear cubs in artificial dens around the state. The latest pair are fast asleep in their new den in South Park.
Wildlife officer Ian Petkash crawls inside to help officer Scott Murdoch get the #bear in the den.
Would you be brave enough to climb inside a den with a bear? These officers dedicate much of their careers helping #Colorado's bears.
— CPW NE Region (@CPW_NE) February 19, 2020
On Monday, CPW transported two male cubs from the Frisco Creek Rehabilitation Center to a den in a remote area in South Park.
“We drove them in on that snowcat. I think it was like an eight mile drive in from where we left the road to get to the site, which is great,” said Jason Clay, a spokesperson for CPW.
Clay documented the entire journey, Monday. He said a lot of work goes into getting the bears ready to hibernate, not to mention finding a location with plenty of food sources, far from humans.
“When you have an opportunity like this, to get some of these young bears back in the wild and have that opportunity, it’s very rewarding for those officers and I would just hope that they live a long and wild life. Hopefully away from people and away from trash cans,” said Clay.
Clay said they try and pair cubs together and monitor which ones get along best during their time at Frisco Creek.
While the length of the winter will impact how long the cubs hibernate, most of the time they stick to the structures built for them during hibernation.
“Sometimes they’ll leave right away, like that day, and they’ll come right back to it.”
Clay said the success rate from their efforts, while not 100 percent, is high.
“Being successful means hopefully they wait it out until spring- whenever the snow is gone. We always try to find a habitat that sets them up to be successful for when they come out,” said Clay. “When they come out, they’re gonna need to start eating right away and finding food, some of those early season food sources for bears? Aspen stands, they can eat a lot of the buds and grasses and forbes are really important.”
With human-bear conflicts becoming more common, Clay said officials are noticing some bears choose not to hibernate at all. Last year in Steamboat for instance, he said bears opted to eat from trash cans instead of their usual long winter nap.
Frisco creek rehab releases an average of 15 orphaned bear cubs annually. This year it has eight, six of which have already been placed in dens.