Long journey home for young cubs
For brother and sister Jack and Diane the cougars and brothers Chipp and Obie the black bears, life took a rocky turn at a young age.
At only a few months old, the wild born sibling pairs were orphaned. In the wild, young cougars and black bears can stay with their mothers for up to two years. "The life skills that are developed while watching and learning from a parent, particularly the mother, are difficult for a human surrogate to instill," said Dr. Rebekah Riedel, Zoo Veterinarian. "This makes reintroduction back into the wild impossible in many cases."
Some orphaned animals are able to find a permanent home while others are not so lucky. Providing refuge for orphaned wild animals is an important role that zoos are sometimes able to fill, depending on timing and space availability.
Due to age and health issues associated with our elderly female cougar, the zoo began the search for a pair of young cougars. "The process usually begins by contacting the Species Survival Plan coordinator for the species and watching other zoos’ news to see if they are temporarily housing orphaned animals," said Lee Ann Whitt, Zoo Director. "We were able to provide a home for two young cougars and are happy to announce our older female, Kira, is still doing ok."
Charismatic cougars Jack and Diane were born in Washington state and arrived at the zoo in late 2015. Cougars are renowned for their strength, stealth and agility. Both Jack and Diane love to jump and balance on their exhibit props and investigate new sights and sounds. The pair will be moving into the renovated cougar exhibit later this spring.
"When we lost Mike, our male black bear, the search began for a nuisance or orphaned black bear in Louisiana. What we didn't expect was adopting two adorable brothers from a rehab facility in Minnesota," said Whitt. "But our accepting the cubs saved their lives."
Chipp and Obie were born in early 2016 in Minnesota and arrived at the zoo in December 2016. The rough and tumble boys have adapted quickly to their new home and are often seen playing and wrestling with each other. "They're a lot of fun. They're a handful and messy, but I'm having fun taking care of them," said zookeeper Laura Yerby. Right now Chipp is a little larger than Obie. As adults, black bears usually reach four to six feet in height and weigh 200 to 600 pounds.
Despite the shaky beginning for these two sibling pairs, each has found a place to call home at Alexandria Zoo.