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This bear cub charmed his way into a permanent home at the Portage wildlife center

  • Author: Chris Klint
  • Updated: August 26, 2016
  • Published August 23, 2016

A black bear cub abandoned in Valdez and taken in by a wildlife facility in Portage will remain there on a permanent basis.

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center staff will put the male cub on public display after his initial care.

Center director Mike Miller said in an email Tuesday that the cub, named Kobuk, climbed a tree in Valdez after dogs confronted its mother during a June foraging trip into town.

"(The sow) was in a dumpster downtown when two dogs surrounded the dumpster," Miller wrote. "When mom made a break out of the dumpster, the dogs chased her up over a mountain. The mom never returned."

Reached by phone, Miller said the cub was quickly flown to AWCC with help from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Although biologists usually try to reunite cubs with their mothers in urban areas, Kobuk was a special case.

"This was a different situation, because they camped out and looked for a good 24 hours and there was no sign of the mom," Miller said. "And they said it was only gonna get worse because there were people surrounding the base of the tree."

Miller credited Chandelle Cotter, an animal psychologist who has been with the center for the past year, with helping predators better adjust to the center. He said her work, training animals to respond to whistles and perform simple tasks, has helped a pair of wolves acquired by AWCC since 2015.

"If they pace, they get neurotic in captivity like you and I would," Miller said. "She works with the wolves and they don't pace — they sit out there and play."

Cotter recommended that Kobuk, named by center staff, not be put on immediate display, to reduce its stress levels. The cub "snuck in" to AWCC staffers' hearts, Miller said, while being rehabilitated in a rear area of the center under initial plans to find another facility as his permanent home.

"You can't take them all — if you took every bear that's out there you'd have 50, 60 bears," Miller said. "It was saved by its personality; it's such a nice bear."

Kobuk will eventually join two 15-year-old black bears being permanently held at AWCC, Kuma and Uli, in a 7-acre enclosure featuring a cave, pond and creek.

Black bears typically live about 30 years in captivity, Miller said.

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