Bear cubs’ bleak future |

Bear cubs’ bleak future

J.K. Perry
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyOne of the bears captured in West Vail now living at a wildlife sanctuary in Silt. The bears will soon be returned to the wild.

SILT ” The future for two black bear cubs captured in West Vail in June is grim.

To break the two male bears’ habit of entering homes for food ” a habit their mother taught them ” the Colorado Division of Wildlife brought the cubs to the nonprofit Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation in Silt. The two were captured in June when they broke into a West Vail condominium.

Their mother was captured and euthanized because wildlife officers deemed her dangerous to humans after she entered at least two homes for food. Several weeks later, another troublesome bear in East Vail was euthanized.

The decision by the Division of Wildlife to rehabilitate the bear cubs is curious ” the foundation normally cares for injured or orphaned wildlife, not bears ingrained to enter homes, said Nancy Limbach, director for the foundation.

The division’s decision was a public relations maneuver to remove the bears from a controversial situation, Limbach said.

“They were already troublemakers and I’m surprised they’re alive,” Limbach said.

Limbach said she can’t correct the bears’ behavior. The bears won’t return to West Vail once they’re re-released, but they’ll likely continue to enter homes, Limbach said.

“We’re not really hopeful about these two considering their history,” Limbach said.

Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the Division of Wildlife, said he is more optimistic and doesn’t see his agency’s treatment of the bears as a public relations move.

“In this case, they seem to be set in their ways. We’ll put them in a remote area and give Mother Nature a chance,” Hampton said.

Although the foundation normally dictates where and when bears cycled through their facility will be released, this time Division of Wildlife officials decide the particulars.

The Division plans to release the cubs within the next few weeks ” after hunting season ” in a remote location between Grand Junction and Rangley.

The agency likely will separate the bears and allow them to create their own dens from which they will emerge in the spring.

The bears will get ear tags and the Division of Wildife will consider euthanizing them if they’re caught entering a home.

Despite the cubs’ bleak future, Limbach said some positive things have happened. These two likely lived longer because lone bear cubs often are killed by other male bears or hunters before they reach age two.

And they helped the bear species by prompting wildlife ordinance reform in Vail ” police began aggressively citing people for violating wildlife ordinances in July and Vail residents are now required to put trash in “wildlife-resistant” cans.

“They were ambassadors for the bear community,” Limbach said.

The 10-month-old bears look healthy. Their light brown coats shine and a thick layer of fat jiggles when the bears move about their cage at the foundation.

Limbach feeds them each 30 pounds of apples in preparation for hibernation. The two jumped from 40 to 100 pounds since June.

“We call them fat little Buddhas,” Limbach said.

Originally the two fought over food with one finally establishing dominance. The dominant cub finishes his food before brother gets a chance to eat.

“Other than that they’ve been like typical brothers,” Limbach said. “They sit in the bath tub and splash each other.”

The two Buddhas have plenty of company. The foundation, established by Limbach, houses and cares for mountain lions, bobcats, arctic foxes, wolves, coyotes and several bird species including peregrine falcons and golden eagles.

Keno Pabi, a 14-year-old snaggle-toothed mountain lion, once lived at a Kansas man’s home. The man moved to Colorado and, by law, had to give up Keno, who will spend the rest of his life at the foundation because he is claw-less and unaccustomed to the wild.

Keno purrs when people scratch him on the head and neck.

Next door is 11-year-old Annie, another mountain lion who was kept as a pet. She isn’t as friendly and doesn’t particularly like Keno. Beyond these two are three domestic bobcats and two wolves.

Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 748-2928 or

Vail, Colorado

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