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Seward Bear Cub Finds New Home in Sitka

A young black bear cub orphaned near Seward is seen here after arrival today at its new home in Sitka at Fortress of the Bear.

A young black bear cub orphaned near Seward is seen here after arrival today at its new home in Sitka at Fortress of the Bear.

Photo: Courtesy of Phil Mooney, ADF&G

SITKA, Alaska – A young black bear cub orphaned near Seward has found a home in Sitka, Alaska. The cub’s story, first reported in a Seward newspaper, became a social media sensation as people around the world monitored the animal’s capture and eventual placement in a wildlife facility, naming the cub “Little Smokey,” along the way.

The cub’s journey into the spotlight began on October 12, when local law enforcement responded to reports of an adult black bear breaking into a vehicle outside the Spring Creek Correctional Facility near Seward. The bear was thought to be a male known to have grown bold around humans and was wounded by police before disappearing into nearby dense coastal forest.

The next day, authorities received varying reports of two to three unaccompanied young black bear cubs in the Spring Creek area. A day later, a single unaccompanied young cub was reported and, on October 16, the lone cub appeared again and was captured by Alaska State Troopers. Troopers contacted Seward Animal Control to hold the cub.

Zoos and other wildlife facilities available to take black bears are limited because the number of bears available for placement exceeds the number of facilities requesting black bears. More than 100,000 black bears are estimated to live in Alaska with many more found in Canada and some 45 of the Lower 48 states. Black bears also are long-lived, having life spans of 15-20 years, making for infrequent turnover in wildlife facilities. Often, when new homes are lacking, young orphaned bears must be humanely euthanized.

Early efforts by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to find a home for the cub turned up no takers. That changed when Sitka-based Fortress of the Bear, a nonprofit, educational facility previously featuring only brown bears, volunteered to take the animal. Working closely with the department to ensure the young bear would be housed in a safe, healthy, long-term environment Fortress of the Bear agreed to the department’s permitting terms – which include adopting a second orphaned black bear to be donated by the department as a companion.

“The cub arrived in Sitka this morning at 5:00 a.m.,” said Sitka Wildlife Biologist Phil Mooney. 

Upon arrival at Fortress of the Bear, the cub was coaxed out of the kennel with an apple slice, which it promptly ate along with a few others, drank some water and curled up on a mound of straw. 

“It certainly appears to me that the cub had good care in Seward, given its disposition and condition, so kudos to the facility there,” said Mooney. 

adfg.alaska.gov

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