Meet Our Bears

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Lucky was born in the wild in Wisconsin in January 2007.  He had a rough start in life.  People took him from his mother’s den to keep as a pet.  Lucky bonded with the people, but they soon found he was too much of a handful to keep.  Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials said he could not be released back into the wild.  Lucky was about to be killed. 

The officials asked if the North American Bear Center could take him.  Lucky arrived here on July 6, 2007, and met Ted and Honey on July 15.  He weighed about 10 pounds.  Visitors gave him his name.

See Lucky’s Blog for updates. 

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Ted and Honey were raised together in captivity in Wisconsin.  Ted was born in January 1997-the smallest of 3 cubs.  He is black most of the year but bleaches to dark brown in mid summer when he begins shedding.

Honey was born in January 1996.  She stood out from her two black brothers by having a rich cinnamon coat.  This suggests that her heritage might be from one of the western states where that color is common.

Growing Up – the First Couple Years

Owners Cindy and Tim let the cubs stay with them in their house and yard for a couple years.  The little bears slept with Cindy and Tim at night.  They practiced their climbing on cupboards and romped outside their cages during playtime and bottle-feeding.

honey_in_pen.jpg A Decade of Close Confinement

When Ted and Honey became too big for the house, Cindy and Tim planned a large enclosure for them in the forest.  But a game warden thwarted that plan.  He confused the words minimum and maximum in the regulations and allowed only a 20 by 40-foot chain link and concrete pen (pictured at right).  The warden did the bears a huge disservice.  Tim tried to stimulate them by playing with them every day in the pen.  Cindy and Tim gathered wild foods in addition to giving them dog food and vegetables.  

But bears need to explore and exercise many hours each day to keep their minds and bodies active.  The small pen prevented that.  Common problems for bears in small pens are boredom, repetitive behaviors, defensiveness, arthritis, and obesity.

Coming to the Bear Center

After a decade of caring for the bears, Tim and Cindy were faced with new insurance rules that prevented them from keeping the bears any longer.  They asked the North American Bear Center to give their beloved bears a home.

When the two bears crossed the state line into Minnesota on April 28, 2007, 10-year-old Ted and 11-year-old Honey became the heaviest male and female black bears in the state.  Riding in the back of a truck, Ted and Honey did not know they were headed for a 2-acre forest home designed by the world’s top captive animal advisors as a model for bear facilities worldwide.

In Their New Home Here

In their new home, the bears had their first opportunities to walk in a forest, swim, run, climb a tree, meet another bear (Lucky), and explore the natural foods and play things a forest has to offer.  Without any teaching, the bears began eating the same kinds of wild leaves that wild bears were eating at that time.  They met wild snowshoe hares, pine martens, squirrels, chipmunks, mallard ducks, herring gulls, ravens, and other birds and mammals that visit the enclosure.

Personalities

Although Ted and Honey were raised together, they developed opposite personalities.  Ted is about as trusting as a bear can be.  He makes friendly tongue-clicks and grunts toward people and likes to lick their faces.  Honey is distrustful and blustery toward people and bears she doesn’t know.  It took her six months to trust her new caretakers enough to stop bluff-charging them.  It took her 3 months to stop chasing Lucky up trees after he arrived in mid July 2007.

Looking Forward

Bear Center personnel are working with veterinarians and other specialists to give these bears the healthiest diet and most stimulating environment possible.  The bears forage for natural and supplemental food throughout the enclosure.  Black bears can live 21 to 34 years.