Two orphaned bear cubs rescued last week near Plummer, Minn., reportedly are doing well after being taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center in Garrison, Minn., that specializes in rehabilitating animals for eventual release back to the wild.
According to Brent Hemly of Plummer, who assisted the Department of Natural Resources on a decade-long bear research project in northwest Minnesota that ended this spring, the saga started early last week when a Red Lake County employee out checking roads saw a small cub run across a road south of Plummer.
The cub climbed partway up a power pole, attracting a small crowd of bystanders, before eventually running off.
After hearing about the cub, Hemly visited the site later that day and placed some trail cameras, hoping to spot the sow. He also called the DNR and was told the cub likely had gotten separated from its mother and to just leave it, which is the recommended practice when encountering abandoned wildlife.
The next morning, Hemly checked the trail cameras and saw photos of the cub, but not the mother. Later that night, Hemly and his wife took a drive to see if the cub was still in the vicinity and saw there actually were two cubs.
But again, no sow; usually, cubs that size don’t wander very far from their mother.
“I said, ‘There’s something wrong here,’” Hemley recalls.
Wednesday night, June 10, the DNR contacted Hemly about rescuing the two cubs, and plans were made to try and catch them the next morning.
It took some doing, but a crew of about a dozen people, including Hemly and Plummer residents Chuck Simpson and Jerry Skjerven, Crookston area DNR wildlife manager Emily Hutchins, conservation officer Tom Hutchins and other DNR staff, managed to rescue the cubs in a shelterbelt between two farm fields and put them in a dog kennel for eventual transport to Wild and Free, a rehabilitation facility in Garrison, Minn.
Hemly on Thursday afternoon, June 11, drove the cubs to Park Rapids, Minn., where a Wild and Free volunteer picked them up for the remainder of the trip to Garrison. The cubs weighed maybe 15 to 20 pounds and were covered with ticks, Hemly said, which isn’t unusual for bears in the wild.
“They were pretty passive,” he said. “They both kind of curled up next to each other.”
The fate of the mother is uncertain, Hemly said, but she could have been killed by a male or perhaps even died in storms that had rolled through the area early in the week. In checking with local authorities, Hemly said there were no reports of a bear being hit by a vehicle or train.
The only certainty is the cubs wouldn’t have survived on their own.
“Somebody said, ‘Why don’t you leave them alone?’” Hemley said. “I said that’s fine, I have no problem with letting Mother Nature take her course, but I guarantee they’re going to die. Number one, they’re small enough where coyotes could take them, and they need the sow. You kind of felt sorry for them.”
Staff from Wild and Free posted an update on the two cubs Tuesday, June 16.
“They came to us thin and full of ticks,” the update said. “They seem to be doing very well.”