Distressed Black Bear Cub? Leave Alone, Call Experts

Wildlife experts in Oregon are warning the public to stay away from young wild animals after a black bear cub was recently picked up by a hiker whose intentions were to help the bear.

This black bear cub in Oregon was found by a hiker recently. (ODFW photo)

The bear, a male which has since been taken to a wildlife rehabilitation facility, was picked up by the hiker March 26 along the Santiam River Trail, according to a news release from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The hiker, Corey Hancock, said the bear was barely breathing and was in distress, according to this report by KION-TV, which reported the bear was taken to the Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center in Salem before being handed over to ODFW.

The state agency said a second bear cub, this one a female, also was recently taken to the ODFW (on March 30) after it was found near its den, which was disturbed by a brush-clearing project near Myrtle Creek. Officials believe the cub was abandoned by its mother due to the disturbance.

According to ODFW:

Both bear cubs are of similar age, between three and four months old, the male cub weighed 4.5 pounds, and the female weighed 6 pounds. The male bear cub was treated for mild pneumonia by ODFW veterinarian Julia Burco and several other staff, who worked with the Oregon State School of Veterinary Medicine to evaluate the cub to make sure it didn't have any underlying congenital issues that would have made him a poor candidate for rehabilitation.

On Friday, March 31, both bear cubs were transported to PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynwood, Washington, a rehabilitation facility used by the Department because of their specialized standard of care designed to allow young bears to develop without habituating to humans so they can be returned to Oregon for release into the wild.

"We'll receive these cubs as unhabituated and year-old bears sometime between March and June of 2018," ODFW state wildlife veterinarian Colin Gillin said in the news release. "And they'll be between 100 and 150 pounds at the time of release."

The ODFW and Oregon State Police said taking young animals out of the wild is against the law in Oregon, and it's also bad for the animals.

"These animals miss the chance to learn important survival skills from their mother like where to feed, what to eat, how to behave and avoid danger and predators," the ODFW said in the news release.

Hancock was given a warning and not a citation, but the state says citations can be given on a case-by-case basis.

Before picking up any wild animal, call ODFW, Oregon State Police, or a wildlife rehabilitator for advice. Removing or "capturing" an animal from the wild and keeping it in captivity without a permit is against state law (OAR 635-044-0015), as is transporting many animals. Last year, seven people were cited for such offenses. You can contact our veterinary staff toll-free at 866-968-2600.

Follow these tips if you encounter young animals in the wild (some of this can apply in many U.S. states):

Deer, elk and other mammals:

  • Never assume an animal is orphaned. Taking a newborn deer fawn into captivity is illegal without appropriate permits or licensing. Don't handle the animal, move it or remove it from the forest, including your backyard. Female deer and elk and other mammals will often leave their young temporarily for safety reasons or to feed elsewhere. They will return when it is safe to do so (when people, dogs, or predators are not present).
  • Call your local ODFW office, Oregon State Police office, or a local licensed wildlife rehabilitation center when: 1) you see an animal that you know is orphaned because you observed the dead parent animal, or 2) the parent hasn't returned for several hours or even up to a day, or 3) if the animal is clearly inured or in distress.
  • Bunnies are rarely orphaned; mother rabbits only visit den sites at dusk and dawn to feed her young.
  • Keep your dog or cat away from young wildlife, especially in the spring.
  • If you see a seal pup, young sea lion, or other marine mammal that appears stranded or in distress, contact OSP's hotline at 1-800-452-7888.

Birds:

  • Leave fledgling birds alone. It is natural for fledgling (mostly feathered) birds to appear awkward while learning how to fly. If you see a young on the ground, leave it alone and keep your distance. Bring your pets under control and indoors (particularly cats) if possible. The mother bird may feed the fledgling for several days on the ground until it "gets its wings.
  • Return nestling birds to the nest. Nestlings (baby birds not fully feathered) found on the ground can be gently and quickly returned to the nest. If the nest is out of reach, place the bird on an elevated branch or fence, or in a nest made from a small box, out of the reach of children and pets. Leave the area so the parent birds can return to feed them.
  • Bring your pets indoors. Cats are a major cause of injury and death for all birds, killing millions of birds in the US annually.
  • Be careful when pruning trees as there may be a bird nest in the branch. Prune trees during winter or in late Spring or Summer when fledgling birds have left the nest.
  • Avoid disturbing cavity nesters. Barn owls and other birds could be nesting in hollowed-out trees or logs and in haystacks. Again, void disturbing the structure during nesting season.
  • What if a bird flies into a window and appears hurt? Birds can become disoriented by reflective surfaces and mistakenly fly into windows. If you find a bird that has been injured by a window strike, place the bird in an uncovered box with a towel on the bottom. Keep it in a quiet, safe place away from pets and check back in a couple of hours to see if has recovered and flown away.  If not, contact a local ODFW office or your local wildlife rehabilitator.

Turtles:

  • Let turtles cross the road. Oregon has 2 species of water turtles (Western Pond and Western Painted) that spend most of their lives in ponds and rivers. In May and June, female turtles begin searching for suitable nesting habitat to lay their eggs and may be observed moving across roads and trails in search of a place to lay their eggs. If you observe a turtle looking for a nest site, the best thing to do is leave it alone and let it continue on its path or at most move it out of harm's way so it won't be struck by a vehicle.

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