Orphaned Bear Cubs Released Back into the Wild

CPW needs the public’s help to find the person who shot the sow, orphaning the cubs. A reward has been offered for information.

Two bear cubs orphaned last July when their sow was shot and killed south of Woodland Park in a suspected case of poaching were released back into the wild Friday by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers working in partnership with the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers retrieved the cubs Friday from Wet Mountain Wildlife Rehabilitation in Wetmore and took them to an artificial den that wildlife officers built for them on Pikes Peak. 

Before placing the cubs in the den, CPW wildlife officers fitted the cubs with GPS ear tag transmitters supplied by Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs as part of an important new research project the two agencies hope will finally answer the question: What happens to the bears when they leave the den?

bear cubs with gps transmitters
Each bear was fitted with a GPS radio transmitter, attached to the ear. The transmitters were supplied by Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to provide data on the bear’s movements once they leave hibernation and the den in the spring. CPW and the Zoo intend to use the data to study bear habits in connection to urban bear conflicts.

The GPS ear tags will allow CPW to track their movements once they emerge from hibernation in the spring and follow their progress as rehabbed adult bears.

“We are excited about this partnership with the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, which had asked how it could help Colorado Parks and Wildlife deal with pressing conservation issues,” said Travis Sauder, CPW’s acting Area Wildlife Manager for the Pikes Peak region. 

“Of course, urban bear conflict is one of our single biggest issues, especially bears getting into garbage at area homes and businesses. It will be extremely valuable to study the effectiveness of our rehabilitation efforts with orphaned bear cubs and see if they really do learn to avoid humans in the future. We’re grateful to the zoo for its partnership with us.”

The partnership evolved over two years of conversations that grew out of the Springs Bear Smart Task Force that CPW formed with residents of southwest Colorado Springs neighborhoods where bear conflicts are common.

“The GPS tag will provide valuable data and support ongoing efforts to reduce human-bear wildlife conflicts in the Pikes Peak Region,” said Rebecca Zwicker, an animal care manager at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. “We’re hoping that through this new GPS tracking, we’ll be able to put more pieces of the puzzle together to keep bears safe and help them be successful in their wild reintroduction. We don’t know much about what they do when they leave the den, and the first step to any challenge is to understand more about it.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Needs Your Help

The bear cubs were placed on sleds for the ride down to the den site.

Sauder also reminded the public that Colorado Parks and Wildlife still needs the public’s help finding the person who shot the sow and a reward has been offered for information that leads to an arrest or citation.

“This is poaching and it’s illegal and we want to catch the person who did this,” Sauder said. “But we need the public’s help.”

Sauder said anyone illegally injuring or killing wildlife could face misdemeanor charges including harassment of wildlife, hunting big game without a license, illegal taking of wildlife and reckless endangerment among other charges.

Convictions could result in fines ranging from $750 to $3,000 and up to 6 months in jail, depending on the charge, he said.

He encouraged anyone with information about the incident to contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife at its Southeast Regional office at 719-227-5200. 

To provide information anonymously about a wildlife violation, the public can contact Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648, by dialing #OGT from a Verizon cellphone, or by email at game.thief@state.co.us. Rewards are available if the information leads to an arrest or citation.

To learn more about Operation Game Thief, please visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

“We need to find the person who killed this sow,” Sauder said.

Written by Bill Vogrin. Bill is a public information officer for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife southeast region.

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