By Matt Renda
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — One little creature has an extra reason to give thanks this year. A group of dedicated and compassionate human beings took time out of their holidays on Thanksgiving morning to rescue an orphaned bear cub from what officials say was certain death.
Ann Bryant, executive director of the BEAR League, and Madonna Dunbar, resource conservationist with Incline Village General Improvement District, teamed up to tend to the small female cub who had lost her mother and was on the verge of starvation.
“She looked dazed when I reached her,” Dunbar said. “She was definitely underweight.”
Dunbar said the cub weighed between 15 and 20 pounds; a cub typically weighs between 80 and 100 pounds at this time of year, she said.
Dunbar, Bryant and other volunteers responded to phone calls from various hikers and skiers who spotted the sickly bear near the Mt. Rose Highway just to the south of the Tahoe Meadows area.
“She was about a basketball-sized cub,” Bryant said. “She was shivering and listless and was approaching people in search of help. The temperatures were really cold that night and I find it hard to believe she would have made it until the (next) morning had we not found her.”
They did find her and provided warm shelter, food and water.
Bryant phoned the Nevada Department of Wildlife, but because of a scarcity of resources, Bryant took the bear home with her, placed it before the fire and fed it some bear formula.
An NDOW official picked the bear cub up on Saturday, and the agency delivered the cub to the Reno-based animal sanctuary, Animal Ark, on Sunday.
“The cub is doing really well,” Bryant said. “We have reports that she is recovering and has even started to get feisty, which is a good sign, because it means she can one day return to the wild.”
The cub will be kept at Animal Ark for the next year, where it will be cared for and raised in the company of another orphaned bear cub found earlier in the year.
Bryant said the chances the bear will be able to transition from captivity back into the wild are “very good.”
“We’ve done it countless times,” she said. “The bear is young enough, and if she continues to do well, she can be introduced back into the wild and live a long good life.”
Despite the good news, Dunbar and Bryant said they do not know what happened to the cub’s mother.
“It’s a happy ending to a sad story,” said Dunbar. “This cub lost her mother, but she will survive due to a little Thanksgiving Day magic.”