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State finds home for orphaned cubs

LEAVENWORTH, Wash. – Two black bear cubs who were on death row Friday will instead get a six-month vacation in Idaho.

Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary in McCall, Idaho, agreed Monday to take the 8-month-old male cubs who were orphaned when a Leavenworth-area man shot their mother, said Rich Beausoleil, bear and cougar specialist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

State officials believed Friday the cubs might have to be euthanized after two other rehabilitation facilities reported they were full and couldn’t take the cubs: Idaho Black Bear Rehab, Inc., in Garden City, Idaho, and PAWS in Lynnwood, Wash.

Snowdon is a privately operated facility funded through donations, grants and volunteers. Washington will not be charged for sending them there, Beausoleil said. He said his agency plans to transport the cubs there today and will retrieve them in the spring to release them back into the wild once other bears begin to emerge from their dens in north central Washington.

“Their natural instinct at that time of year will be to stay together in March and April, until the beginning of June, and then they split up,” he said. They will have ear tags and radio collars so wildlife officials will know if they become a nuisance after their release.

“At this point, they don’t have a strike against them,” Beausoleil said, because they were not causing any problems when they were captured at the Icicle Road residence where their mother had been shot Friday.

The man who shot the mother bear told enforcement officers that raccoons had been frequenting their place, so he let two dogs out to chase them off, then realized it was a bear when he followed them out and found his pit bull acting aggressively toward the bear. He was not cited.

These are the 12th and 13th black bear cubs state wildlife officials have sent to a rehabilitation center since spring, he said.

Cubs rehabilitated at one of these private facilities and returned to the wild don’t often get into trouble after their release, Beausoleil said.

Over the past several years, he’s sent 25 cubs to one of the rehab centers and released them the next spring, and has only had to euthanize two for getting too close to people, he said.