Durango Telegraph - Into the wild
Into the wild

Although it’s been a bear of a fall for the state’s bruin population, it looks like a hppy ending for eight orphaned local cubs .

Last week, the Colorado Division of Wildlife began releasing the cubs back into the wild after they spent the last few months at the DOW’s rehabilitation facility in Del Norte. Joe Lewandowski, spokesman for the DOW in Durango, said the bears were kept in isolation as much as possible during their stay so as not to habituate them to humans.

“They were between eight and 10 pounds when we got them and they’re between 80 and 90 pounds now,” he said.

Lewandowski said the bears are fattened to about 20 percent more than necessary to give them better odds once they are released back into the wild. He said the average bear can lose up to two-thirds of its body weight over the course of the winter. “The trick is to get them into hibernation with good fat on them,” he said.

The bears came from various spots throughout Southwest Colorado, from as near as Vallecito and as far away as Telluride and Montrose. So far, one bear has been released near Dolores and plans are for three more to be released near Pagosa Springs this week.

“It’s called a ‘hard release,’” said Lewandowski. “In the past, we used to build dens for them, but we found they would leave them and had enough natural instinct to build dens of their own.”

Lewandowski said prospects for the bears to assimilate back into bear society are good. “We feel they’re going to do OK,” he said. “They’re fat, furry and in good shape.”

– Missy Votel

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