TELLER COUNTY, Colo. — Moving day isn’t so stressful if you find a mover like Tim Kroening. On Tuesday morning, his team did all the heavy lifting on Pikes Peak. Instead of furniture, they hoisted fur – fur belonging to four black bear cubs.
“Today we’re out here releasing some cubs,” Kroening said. “We’re actually putting them in an artificial den that we made.”
Kroening is a district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. He helped orchestrate the move of the orphaned cubs into their new homes.
Wildlife officers and trained volunteers used sleds to move the cubs, ranging in weight from 110 to 160 pounds, through the snow and steep terrain.
“If we didn’t do this, these bears would likely die,” Kroening said. “They don’t have great odds of growing up in the wild without a mom.”
The cubs, each just about year old, lost their mothers last year. Kroening said bears are often killed by vehicles. Sometimes wildlife officers must euthanize bears that make their way into people’s homes. Poaching also remains a concern in Colorado.
The cubs Kroening helped move were among eight orphaned cubs CPW officers released into the wild Tuesday on Pikes Peak.
“We hope that these bears stay out here in the wild,” Kroening said. “I mean, this is a beautiful area and we hope they stay out here in the wild and they don’t have any contact with humans.”
The cubs were rehabilitated for months at a facility in Wetmore, southwest of Colorado Springs. There, they fattened up on plenty of food to get them through winter.
“Preparing for hibernation, these bears are putting on 20,000 calories a day in the fall,” Kroening said.
CPW officers constructed artificial bear dens at undisclosed locations on Pikes Peak. The dens were made from trees and branches. The inside of each was packed with straw – an ideal bear bed.
“This is nothing out of the ordinary for cubs in a den,” Kroening said, showing off one of the dens. “This is totally something that could be out there in the wild.”
Before the move to their new homes, the bear cubs were tranquilized. A couple of the cubs were jostled awake during the sled ride for a moment. Officers were quick to administer another dose of drugs and covered the bears’ eyes with blindfolds to keep them as calm as possible.
Kroening and fellow CPW staff expect the bears will hibernate in their new dens through winter. When they wake, they hope they feel right at home.
“It’s a bittersweet moment because we’re getting these cubs released out,” Kroening said. “Unfortunately, they were orphaned cubs, but we’re hoping for the best for them.”
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