Eight orphaned bear cubs get a second chance at freedom as CPW places them in artificial dens on Pikes Peak

Eight orphaned bear cubs are sleeping peacefully on Pikes Peak, snug in artificial dens built by CPW officers, staff and volunteers during snowstorm

On Tuesday officers from Area 14 in Colorado Springs rescued eight orphaned bear cubs and re-homed them on Pikes Peak inside artificial dens built by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers, staff and volunteers. Their mothers died either due to being hit by cars, trains, at the hands of poachers or after being euthanized because they entered a home in search of human food and needed refuge. The bears spent the summer and fall thereafter at Wet Mountain Wildlife Rehabilitation in Wetmore.

After packing four orphan bear cubs in an artificial den behind a wall of straw, hay and alfalfa, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers relax for a moment before hiking out to their trucks. From left: Cody Wigner, assistant area wildlife manager, and district wildlife managers Phil Gurule, Aaron Berscheid, Sarah Watson and Tim Kroening.
After packing four orphan bear cubs in an artificial den behind a wall of straw, hay, and alfalfa, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers relax for a moment before hiking out to their trucks. From left: Cody Wigner, assistant area wildlife manager, and district wildlife managers Phil Gurule, Aaron Berscheid, Sarah Watson and Tim Kroening.

According to a press release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, “It was a great day on the mountain,” said Frank McGee, area wildlife manager who oversees Area 14. “This is the experience that motivates every CPW wildlife officer. We all chose this career to work with wildlife, so this is very personal with us. It’s so rewarding to release wildlife back into their habitat. It was gratifying to know we gave them a second chance to be wild bears.”

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They crew blindfolded the bears and hobbled them in case they were to awaken from their drug-induced sleep. A sled transported them through deep snow to their winter home. It took about two hours to get all eight bears tucked into the dens.  A couple cubs woke up, sitting up on their sleds surprised. The bears got another dose of tranquilizer so release work could resume. Four cubs share two dens built with downed logs, timbers and small branches, pine boughs and a mix of straw, hay, and alfalfa.

Each cub was tranquilized, weighed (they ranged from 110 to 140 pounds each) and placed in a trap for transportation to the den sites on Pikes Peak about an hour away. On the mountain, each bear was blindfolded and hobbled, in case they were to awaken from their drug-induced sleep, then carried by sled through deep snow to their winter home.
Each cub was tranquilized, weighed (they ranged from 110 to 140 pounds each) and placed in a trap for transportation to the den sites on Pikes Peak about an hour away. On the mountain, each bear was blindfolded and hobbled, in case they were to awaken from their drug-induced sleep, then carried by sled through deep snow to their winter home.

The officers crawled into the dens to position the bears comfortably so they could easily breathe and rest. After a long day, the officers were covered with hay and drenching wet. The last phase of the project was to administer the drugs that reversed the tranquilizers. The dens were sealed with alfalfa and packed with a thick layer of snow for the winter.

Eight TV news cameras and other media were present to report on the bear-release project. The bears will remain in the dens until spring. They will emerge as one-year-old bears and roam in the forest to eat natural grasses, nuts, and berries with a healthy fear of humans.

CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including 41 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW’s work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.