California

Why wild black bears were tabbed to become zoo ambassadors

Meet the planned Oakland Zoo ambassadors

A female black bear and her three cubs, transferred from a Rancho Cordova lab, are being groomed to become educational ambassadors at the Oakland Zoo.
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A female black bear and her three cubs, transferred from a Rancho Cordova lab, are being groomed to become educational ambassadors at the Oakland Zoo.

A female black bear and her three cubs went from foraging nuisances to possible educational ambassadors.

The bears were transferred last week from the care of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Investigations Lab in Rancho Cordova to the Oakland Zoo.

The tale beings in Kern County. A CDFW news release provides these details: On May 15, the sow and cubs broke into a home in Pine Mountain Club, a private community. An elderly resident tried to bang pots and pans to scare off the bears. The sow charged at the resident, injuring her left arm. The woman was treated at a local hospital and is recovering.

During the investigation, CDFW learned of eight other incidents in the same vicinity over the three weeks leading up to the May 15 incident involving a sow with three cubs, believed to be the same four bears. The earlier incidents were not reported to CDFW. Though none of the previous incidents resulted in human injury, the bears did significant property damage to vehicles, garages and homes.

On May 16, the bears were safely captured in a culvert trap set by the CDFW. They were then taken to a holding facility at the Rancho Cordova lab.

CDFW decided to hold and monitor all four bears until the cubs were weaned, with the hope that the cubs could be rehabilitated and eventually returned to their natural habitat. As a known public safety animal, the sow was to be euthanized per CDFW policy.

As monitoring continued, CDFW staff determined that the bears were habituated to humans and not suitable candidates for release. CDFW began to search for a captive facility for the cubs.

Oakland Zoo requested to take the three cubs, as well as the sow, for its 56-acre California Trail expansion, its focus to highlight California’s natural habitat as part of an initiative to emphasize native species and educate the public about human-wildlife issues.

The exhibit, scheduled to open in summer 2018, is intended to mimic California habitat and educate visitors about wildlife in California.

“Oakland Zoo is very grateful to be in a position to provide a home for these bears,” said Dr. Joel Parrott, president and CEO of Oakland Zoo, in the release. “They are an important example of the human-wildlife conflict and highlight how we need to care for wildlife throughout California.”

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