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3 Alaska orphaned grizzly bear cubs headed to Detroit Zoo; mother bear had been shot

Posted: November 15, 2011 - 12:02am
Three Alaska grizzly bear cubs, seen here on Sunday, were orphaned when their mother was killed and will soon be calling the Detroit Zoo home.  John Gomes / Alaska Zoo
John Gomes / Alaska Zoo
Three Alaska grizzly bear cubs, seen here on Sunday, were orphaned when their mother was killed and will soon be calling the Detroit Zoo home.

ANCHORAGE — Three grizzly bear cubs orphaned when their mother was shot are romping and playing in the snow at the Alaska Zoo, but zookeepers hope they don’t get too comfortable.

That’s because the 11-month-old brown fuzz balls, which now stand about 21/2 feet tall and weigh between 100 pounds and 125 pounds, are headed to the Detroit Zoo in about two weeks, zoo officials said Monday.

The cubs were orphaned Oct. 1 when a man heard the mother bear knock something over and went outside and shot her, said Alaska State Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters. After an investigation, Brian Garst was charged with taking the bear in a closed season, and illegal transportation and possession.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game decided to capture the cubs after they were seen numerous times looking for food in backyards and around homes in several of the city’s outlying neighborhoods.

It wasn’t that easy to catch the cubs, said Alaska Zoo executive director Pat Lampi.

“They were pretty mobile,” he said.

Eventually, the three were corralled. The first cub to be caught was brought to the Alaska Zoo on Halloween. His name is Boo. The other two, named Mike and Thor, joined their brother several days later.

“It’s tragic that the cubs’ mother was killed. We will take good care of them,” said Ron Kagan, the Detroit Zoological Society’s executive director,

After the cubs arrive at the Detroit Zoo, they will be given a month to adjust to their new surroundings before they are put on display. Zoo spokeswoman Patricia Janeway said the bears will be housed in a natural habitat enclosure, one with no bars, in which the cubs will be separated from the public by a moat.

“We are very happy to provide a home for these guys,” she said.

The Detroit Zoo already is home to two other rescued grizzly bears, both of which came to the zoo from the wild as cubs and now are getting old for zoo bears. Kintla, a 27-year-old female, was captured in Montana after showing too much interest in beehives. Lakota, a 26-year-old male, arrived from Wyoming after being deemed a public threat at Yellowstone National Park. Grizzly bears live to be about 25 years in the wild.

The Detroit Zoo was on the Alaska Zoo’s list for orphaned brown bear cubs. Lampi said the zoo usually tries to arrange for about two orphaned cubs a year to be sent to other facilities. That was the case last year but one of the placements fell through. The zoo still has that cub, weighing in at 300 pounds and becoming ever more difficult to place.

Lamp said it’s fortunate the orphaned cubs can stay together.

“These triplets are pretty darn lucky, I would say,” Lampi said.

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