Bear Cubs get Human Help

Four bear cubs orphaned near Stateline, Nev., will have a chance to grow up near Reno, at least until next winter.

That’s according to the Nevada Department of Wildlife which rescued the cubs last week after discovering their mother died, apparently of natural causes.

The cubs had been living under a walkway since their birth in January, according to a homeowner who reported the family of bears on her property.

NDOW officials visited the makeshift den in March and put a tracking collar on the mother, who they determined was about 18-years-old, which is an advanced age for a wild black bear. Black bears can live into their 30’s in the wild but most die before reaching their early 20s.

Once the bear family awoke from hibernation wildlife officials continued to track the mother via the collar. On Friday they noticed she had stopped moving.

A biologist went to the area and found her deceased in the forest with no sign of trauma on her body.

Wildlife officials then used bait to trick three of the cubs into walking into a cage. They used a blowgun with a tranquilizer dart to capture the fourth. There were two male and two female cubs, which were also tagged. The cubs weighed about seven pounds each when they were taken into captivity on Saturday, according to NDOW.

The cubs were transferred to Animal Ark, a Reno area wildlife refuge where they will be cared for through the summer and fall with a minimum amount of human contact. They’ll be fed a diet of fish, pine nuts and vegetables and be kept away from public view in order to keep them as isolated as possible from humans.

“We want them to be wild,” Animal Ark co-founder Diana Hiibel said.

Next winter as they’re going into hibernation they’ll be taken back to the forest and placed in an artificial den.

They will already be in hibernation when we go out into the wild and put them in the artificial den,”

When they awake in spring they’ll be expected to survive on their own in the wild.

Since 1997 NDOW has rescued and sent 31 orphan black bear cubs to rehabilitation facilities. Of those, 25 have been released back into Nevada.

Including the recent batch Animal Ark has received 22 of the orphan cubs, 17 of which have been released. Only three of the bears released from Animal Ark have grown up to become “conflict bears,” a term for bears that venture into human areas and need to be removed.

Animal Ark is supported by donations from the public. Hiibel said people who want to help the bears and others like them can contact the refuge to make a donation by calling 775-970-3431 or by email to