Tag Archives: Kodiak Bear Cubs

Munsey and Boda

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20160530_084322 (2)This past Memorial Day, my cousin and his wife, Mike and Mary Kohr, drove from their home in Minnesota to Marshfield, Wisconsin to visit Munsey and Boda at the Wildwood Zoo. Those of you have been following my blog know that Munsey and Boda are two of the three bear cubs we helped rescue last spring after their mother was shot by a hunter. If you haven’t read these posts, follow these links to read the first one and the second one.

We were thrilled that Mike and Mary planned a trip to see the bears. We had seen recent photos of the cubs and knew they were thriving, but from the photos, we only caught glimpses of the bear enclosure at the zoo. Mike promised to take photos and videos of the enclosure and to send them to us. The thumb drive with the photos and videos arrived a few days ago, along with a special treat: The Marshfield, Wisconsin Visitor’s Guide. Guess whose photos are splashed across the cover of the visitor’s guide? That’s right! Two spunky, healthy Kodiak Bear cubs dominate the visitor’s guide. Not only are their photos on the cover, but the guide has a nice, long article about the cubs and how they came to call the Wildwood Zoo home.

20160530_081745Mike and Mary’s photos and videos provided us with great views of the bear enclosure. This enclosure was completed just before the bears were transferred to the zoo, and it is spacious and beautiful. The Wildwood Zoo is not a large zoo, and the bear enclosure is the centerpiece of the facility. The enclosure cost 1.3 million dollars to build. Designers took an existing 1,200 square-foot outdoor exhibit and expanded it by adding 4,600 square feet. This enclosure includes a one-acre wooded area called the “Bear Woods,” and an enclosed bridge that spans 65 feet connects the woods to the primary exhibit area. Additional pools with recirculating water were added to the exhibit, and state-of-the-art containment and care facilities were added to the existing den building. The bridge joining the woods and the primary exhibit area is usually left open, allowing the bears to wander back and forth, but the bridge can be closed if the staff needs to isolate the bears from each other for some reason.

Here is what Mike Kohr had to say about Marshfield and the Wildwood Zoo: “Marshfield, Wisconsin is a small rural town of about 20,000 people. The Wildwood Park and Zoo complex is small but well maintained and seems to be very popular. The zoo itself is small and does not charge admission. It has mostly birds and a few mammals. However, the Kodiak Bear complex/exhibit is spectacular by any standard. I love zoos and have been to many around the world. Munsey and Boda are in a great place that rivals any bear exhibit I have seen.”20160530_081734

 Mike said that wherever he and Mary went in Marshfield, people asked them if they had seen the bears. Munsey and Boda truly are the stars of not only the zoo but the entire town. For two little bears that nearly died from dehydration and hunger on a Kodiak mountainside, life at the Wildwood Zoo is very sweet.

Thank you, Mike and Mary for visiting the zoo and sharing your photos, videos, and observations with us. The Marshfield Visitor’s Guide is a treat that we will share with our guests. If any of you are in Wisconsin in the near future, take a little extra time and swing by the Wildwood Zoo to say hi to Munsey and Boda. E-mail your photos to me at robin@robinbarefield.com, and I will share them on my blog!

Thanks to everyone who came to my Facebook Book Launch party and/or stopped by the Book Launch page on my website. Laura Nelson was the winner of the raffle for the $25 gift card on my website, so congratulations, Laura, and thank you to everyone who entered.

 

Update on Orphaned Cubs

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I wrote a post a year ago about three orphaned cubs that entered our lives when a resident hunter killed their mother. Last spring, my husband, Mike Munsey watched a hunter shoot a bear near a den, but Mike didn’t know it was a sow with cubs until several days later when one of our guides saw a newborn cub peer out of the den. It is illegal to shoot a sow with cubs, but the hunter was apparently unaware the bear he shot had cubs. Mike called Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Nate Svoboda and asked for permission to rescue the tiny cubs from their den. The helpless newborn cubs had been without food and water for several days, and Nate didn’t think they would survive, but he gave Mike permission to attempt a rescue.

There is an abundance of bears in zoos across the country. Bears live a long time, and they eat a lot of food, so they are expensive to maintain. Not many zoos are looking for bears, and unless The Department of Fish and Game has a specific request from a zoo with a suitable bear-habitat exhibit, they cannot rescue bears from the wilderness, even if they know the bears won’t survive on their own. When Mike called Nate, he expected to be told to let nature take its course, and he was pleasantly surprised when Nate gave the go-ahead for the rescue.

Mike radioed our guide Harry Dodge and Harry, another guide, and one of our hunters climbed to the den and captured the three cubs. The cubs were caked with mud, dehydrated, and hungry. The guys each put a cub in his backpack and hiked down to the beach. From there, the cubs were brought back to our lodge where they spent the night. The following day, Nate and a local pilot flew out to our lodge, put the cubs in a big cage, and flew them back to Kodiak. From there, they were flown to the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage where they were nursed back to health.

The cubs stayed at the Alaska Zoo for several months, and we watched frequent videos of them on the nightly news as they continued to grow. The videos showed the cubs wrestling and playing, and the sight of them looking healthy and playful always brought tears to my eyes.

This past fall, two of the cubs were moved to the Wildwood Zoo in Marshfield, Wisconsin. A few months later, the other cub was sent to the Toledo Zoo. The Wildwood Zoo had just completed a beautiful, large bear enclosure, so the timing couldn’t have been more perfect, and the two cubs were greeted as celebrities in Marshfield. The zoo held a contest to name the cubs, and the winning names were: Munsey and Boda. Munsey was of course named after Mike, and Boda was named after Nate Svoboda. Check out the Wildwood Zoo website to see photos of Munsey and Boda, and while you are there take a look at the beautiful Kodiak Bear Exhibit. The cub that went to the Toledo Zoo was named Dodge after Harry Dodge, the guide who helped rescue the cubs from the den. Mike, Nate, and Harry are all very proud that the cubs were named after them, and we are thrilled that the little guys (all three are males) are thriving.

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When those dirty little cubs were visitors at our lodge, the largest weighed only 12 lbs. The latest report we received on the cubs at the Wildwood Zoo is that they now weigh 175 lbs. I’ve heard several people comment that it’s sad they couldn’t be re-released into the wilderness, but that was never an option. Cubs learn from their mothers how to interact with other bears, avoid danger, procure food, and how to hibernate. These bears have lived in zoos nearly their entire lives, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game only sends bears to zoos with first-rate bear enclosures. These cubs now have the mission of teaching thousands of people about bears, about Kodiak, and about the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. I have no doubt that all three will do a good job.

The photo at the top of this post was taken last year when Nate was putting the cubs in the plane to fly them to Kodiak. The other photo in this post is of two unrelated one-year-old cubs and their mother. This photo was taken in August, so the cubs were a few months older than the orphan cubs.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers.  It didn’t occur to me when I wrote this update that I would be posting it on Mother’s Day.  I hope you will find it a story with a sad beginning but a happy ending.

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Orphaned Cubs

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Three orphaned cubs unexpectedly entered our lives two weeks ago. You may remember in my post on Kodiak bears emerging from their dens in the spring, I mentioned that sows with newborn cubs are the last to emerge, and often the sow will leave and return to the den many times before she introduces her babies to the world. Unfortunately, this behavior was fatal for one sow this spring.

Let me make it clear that bear hunting on Kodiak is very tightly regulated by a limited-permit system. It is illegal to shoot a sow with cubs, but when hunters saw this sow alone outside her den they shot her, perhaps never realizing she had cubs in the den. The incident is being investigated by the Alaska State Troopers, and I won’t speculate on what may or may not have happened. That part of the story is out of our hands.

Our guides already suspected this bear was a sow with young cubs in the den, and after she was shot, they kept a close eye on the den. A few days later, Tim, one of our guides, saw tiny, furry heads peering out of the den. My husband, Mike, called the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Kodiak, and they gave us permission to rescue the cubs from the den. At that point, it had been five days since their mother died, and the biologists did not believe the cubs would survive.

Two of our guides climbed up to the den, caught the cubs, and carried them down the mountain in backpacks. They then transported the cubs back to our lodge for the night. The three brothers were dirty, terrified, and stressed, and they huddled under the bunk beds in our guides’ cabin. They drank some water, but I knew we were not getting enough nutrients into their little bodies. We later learned that the cubs each weighed about 12 pounds (5.5 kg), and they were dehydrated and malnourished.

The next morning, I stayed alone with the cubs, waiting nervously for Fish and Game to arrive to take them to Kodiak. I soon learned, though, that it was foggy in Kodiak, and all planes were grounded until the fog lifted. Every hour, I crept into the cabin and peered under the bed, making sure they were still moving and alert. They drank some water, but I finally decided that my attempts to feed them were causing them too much stress, and since the airplane ride undoubtedly would terrify them, I wanted them as calm as possible before they began the next leg of their ordeal.

At 3:00 in the afternoon, the floatplane touched down and glided to our dock. I raced to meet Fish and Game biologist Nate Svoboda and eagerly showed him where the bears were hiding. Nate was impressed the bears looked as good as they did, and he carefully placed them in a large kennel for the trip to Kodiak.

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Once in Kodiak, the cubs spent the night at Fish and Game and then took another plane ride to Anchorage, where the vets at the Alaska Zoo are now caring for them. A video recently released by the zoo shows the three brothers playing and cuddling. They are now clean and fluffy and appear to be very healthy. After spending several months in Anchorage, the cubs will board yet another plane. Two will go to a zoo in Wisconsin, and the third to another zoo.

I experienced a roller coaster of emotions during this drama: Anger, depression, excitement, worry, and fear among others, but as I watched the video from the Alaska Zoo and saw three, healthy, playful cubs, I finally allowed myself to smile and breathe a sigh of relief. The three bears will never know a life in the Kodiak wilderness, but they are alive, and their jobs now are to teach others about Kodiak bears. Maybe someday I will be able to visit them at their new homes.

View the video of the cubs.