Orphan bear drops out of sight; denning plan is abandoned

Cub hasn't been seen in Douglas for the past 12 days

Posted: Friday, January 19, 2007

The Douglas orphan black bear is on its own, if it's still alive.

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Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials have removed a trap with which they hoped to catch the roving, motherless cub. The plan was to transport the little bear to a remote spot, place it in a denning box and encourage it to sleep through the winter.

But no one has seen the bear for 12 days.

"Maybe he was in poor condition and he starved to death," area wildlife management biologists Neil Barten said Thursday.

"Maybe he was in better condition and he found a place to hole up. I seriously doubt that he wandered back in the hills of Douglas, because there's no reason for him to want to do that."

The trap was removed Tuesday.

The cub had been scavenging for food since early December south of the Douglas Bridge. Most Southeast Alaska black bears start to hibernate in late October or early November. This was likely the cub's first winter without his mother, Barten said.

"If he was getting enough food and had a bit of fat on him, then he might have been in good enough condition to hole up some place," Barten said.

The trap was set in early January on the water side of Douglas Island near the home of Brenda Greenbank and Gary Rosenberger. There, the bear scavenged a few meals. Biologists filled the trap with apples and cinnamon.

"It hasn't been around that guy's house in two weeks," Barten said. "It doesn't pay to leave it there, and have another animal come along and get caught."

In the summertime, when more animals are around, Fish and Game will typically pull a trap after two or three days. If the black bear resurfaces, biologists may replace the trap.

It's rare to catch an orphan black bear. Fish and Game nabbed a 60-pound cinnamon cub in December 2001 in Switzer Creek. That animal was sent to the Topeka Zoological Park in Kansas.

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com

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