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Adorable orphaned polar bear cub finds new friends at Alaska Zoo

Katie Medred
John Gomes/Alaska Zoo photo

He's probably the cutest polar bear cub you'll see all day today. And he recently landed in Alaska's largest city, where he's getting some TLC before heading elsewhere.

Meet "Kali," the newest adorable critter to call the Alaska Zoo home. The 3- to 4-month-old polar bear cub is being held for observation after he was orphaned off the Northwest Alaska coast. The Zoo won't be keeping the cutey, though, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) spokesman Bruce Woods. Kali (pronounced "Cully"), the Iñupiaq Eskimo word for Point Lay, is a transient and "it's still unclear where he'll go. That process (of determining where he'll go next) has yet to begin," Woods said.

What happened to his mama? Woods said it wasn't clear, yet, whether Kali's mother was killed in a subsistence hunt or another legal way like self defense or in defense of property (known as DLP in Alaska). Woods confirmed that she was shot but the specifics of her death were still being investigated by the USFWS. 

Kali's trip began after he was recovered on March 12 and handed over to biologists with the North Slope Borough. His health was evaluated and from there he was transferred to the Alaska Zoo, which was asked to transport him 725 miles south to Anchorage and care for him until he has a new home.

Woods said that Kali appears to be doing well and enjoying the attention, "eating enthusiastically, which is always a good sign. I've heard nothing that indicates there's anything wrong with him." 

The little polar bear, although housed at the zoo, is not viewable to the general public. And Woods said he was unsure when or if Kali will make a public appearance.

Polar bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. It's not easy to get a good census on how many polar bears live in Alaska but there are two populations living in the Arctic waters along the state's north coast. USFWS estimates up to 2,000 polar bears live along the Chukchi Sea coast in the vicinity of the Native village of Point Lay.

Video courtesy John Gomes/Alaska Zoo. Words by Katie Medred. Contact Katie Medred at katie(at)alaskadispatch.com