GREAT FALLS — Three grizzly bear cubs were rescued and taken to the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks’ wildlife rehabilitation facility at Montana WILD in Helena on Saturday.
FWP said in a news release that the cubs were from a sow that was involved in a surprise encounter with a hiker near Dupuyer on Wednesday evening. The sow was shot and injured by a hiker, and was later euthanized by FWP on April 9. At the time, it wasn’t clear how many cubs she had, though it was thought she had at least one.
On Friday evening, a family spotted three cubs in a nearby field, huddled up together and playing. The family called FWP to report the cubs. While waiting for FWP staff to arrive, the family grew concerned for the cubs’ safety because of a male grizzly that lives in the area and because of an impending snowstorm. The ranching family, being adept at roping, was able to gently rope the cubs and keep them in one area. A neighboring rancher offered a barrel in which they placed the cubs.
The family said in a Facebook post: "We were fortunate enough to get them safely gathered and put the barrel in our truck, where we could to take them to our ranch shop and transfer them to the Bear Specialist. He had us get them some milk and hay for a soft, warmer bed. At that point we wished them farewell."
When FWP staff arrived on Saturday morning, they took the cubs to the wildlife center. The cubs are still only nursing and the wildlife center staff immediately made a specialized formula for the bears.
FWP is working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to find permanent placement for the cubs at an accredited Association of Zoos and Aquariums zoo or facility. Grizzly bear cubs cannot be released back to the wild. FWP explained that the cubs will be frequently handled for bottle feeding and will quickly habituate to humans. This would pose a significant human safety risk and drastically lowers their ultimate success in the wild.