Polar Express: Home-alone polar bear cub settles in for the holidays at the Alaska Zoo

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One little polar bear that weighs the equivalent of two bags of dog food will be spending Christmas at the Alaska Zoo after losing track of his mom. And that also looks like the cub’s semi-permanent address, after the bear was found roaming alone in Prudhoe Bay in November.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was notified on Nov. 24 of the lonely bear and sent a team of biologists to check it out. They determined the male bear, about 10- to 11-months old and 103 pounds, needed to come in from the cold. Usually cubs stay with their mothers for up to 2.5 years.

The decision was made because the orphan was a little too comfortable around people, raising concerns for potential human-bear conflicts in its future, the USFW said. Those encounters never end well for the bears.

(In the words of Kevin from “Home Alone,” the Christmas movie, “This house is so full of people it makes me sick. When I grow up and get married, I’m living alone.”)

Once the cub was captured and determined to be stable through visual and physical inspection, it was polar-expressed to the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage, which has the facilities and experience to provide for the animal’s immediate needs. The bear appears to be in fair to good condition, although it arrived with a few small cuts on its lip.

“At this time, the cub will not be on public display at the Alaska Zoo. Public opportunities to view the cub would be provided only with the Service’s approval and if zoo staff deems the bear to be completely healthy and the opportunity appropriate to the cub’s development,” the service reported.

(In the words of Harry the wet bandit in “Home Alone,” the Christmas movie, “”All kids, no parents. Probably a fancy orphanage.”)

“The decision to remove this bear from the wild was not made lightly,” said Service Polar Bear Program Lead David Gustine. “Removing a bear is not a good outcome for the individual or the wild population, but we felt it was the best course of action in this situation.” 

Alaska has about 4,700 wild polar bears, and one adult female polar bear that lives at the Alaska Zoo. You can watch “Cranbeary,” the female bear, on the Alaska Zoo’s live web cam:

“Our primary concern is for the wellbeing of the cub,” said Alaska Zoo Executive Director Patrick Lampi. “It had been observed eating a fox, lacerations on its upper lip are likely from that activity. With rabies in fox prevalent in the Prudhoe Bay area, we have special extended quarantine procedures in place for this cub.”  

A future determination on the long-term care of this animal will be made by the Service after considering all options. Given the bear’s behavior around humans and its young age, it will not be returned to the wild, the Service said.

(In the words of Kevin from “Home Alone,” the Christmas movie, “Guys! I’m eating junk and watching rubbish. You better come out and stop me!”)

The last time an orphan polar bear was brought in from the wild was in 2013, when a male cub — Kali — was found alone at Point Lay. Kali was taken to the Alaska Zoo and now lives at the Saint Louis Zoo in Missouri.

The Service has been responsible for the management of polar bear populations in the United States since 1972 under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and under the Endangered Species Act since 2008, when it was listed as a threatened species due to the loss of its sea-ice habitat. 

The Fish and Wildlife Service said that it appreciated the help of Hilcorp, which reported the animal and assisted in assessing the situation, Alaska Clean Seas, which provided logistical and field support, and the Alaska Zoo.

(In the “Home Alone” words of Gangster Johnny, “Keep the change, ya filthy animal!”)

3 COMMENTS

  1. Great Christmas story, Suzanne. Unfortunately, the wacko climate change propogandists will find a way to hijack your story and convert it to a diatribe about burning too much petro and coal.
    I hope the Anchorage zoo has a warming room for that little cutie. Coal or oil?

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