Officials from the Alaska Zoo and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rescued an orphaned polar bear cub at an Alaska oil field. The zoo will take temporary custody of the female cub, but ultimately she will have to go to another zoo.
The 17-pound cub that is thought to be at least 4 months-old, was herded into a net and then placed in a large dog kennel. The underweight cub was fed a commercial puppy milk replacement with whip cream to meet her nutritional needs.
“It was initially shaking from the stress, but it settled down and has been resting quietly,” Rosa Meehan, the Fish and Wildlife Service marine mammals manager said in an Associated Press interview.
The cub will stay at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage, but they are looking for another zoo to step forward and give the bear a permanent home. The Alaska Zoo already has two polar bears and four other bears and their facility will not accommodate another bear.
The polar bear cub was first seen seven weeks ago along with her mother and a sibling when they came out of their winter den. Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey captured the trio and put a radio collar on the mother.
“Unfortunately, the collar slipped off a few days later,” said Meehan.
Workers at the Alpine oil field spotted the cub on Tuesday, but she was all alone. They contacted Fish and Wildlife Service who then conducted an “aerial search” for the mother, but were unable to find her.
On Thursday, the cub showed up for a second time and officials coordinated a plan to rescue her.
The agency already had a rescue plan in place for any oil spills that may affect polar bears, so they only had to make a few modifications for the cub.
Officials do not know what happened to the mother or the sibling. And they don’t know how long the underweight cub had been without food.
They checked with the nearest Inupiat Eskimo village and were told that no locals had killed a polar bear recently.
“Only Alaska Natives are allowed to hunt polar bears, and they are required to report their subsistence harvest to the Fish and Wildlife Service,” reported AP.
The agency thinks is it much more likely that the mother bear was in poor health and couldn’t take care of the cubs, or that the family became separated in a storm, or the mother was killed trying to protect her cubs from an adult male bear.
“We were just pleased to be able to rescue this polar bear cub and put it in the hands of U.S. Fish and Wildlife,” said Natalie Lowman, a representative from ConocoPhillips which owns the Alpine oil field.
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