Posted by: Wild Instincts | March 3, 2012

More Frequently Asked Cub Questions


When people see the bear cubs, one of the first questions is “What are their names?” That’s a pretty normal first question with any baby creature of any species be it baby human, baby dog or baby bear.

In wildlife rehab, though, we don’t name the patients. The goal is to release them back into the wild where they don’t need names. We do, however, have to refer to each individual when communicating amongst ourselves or tracking bodily functions on patient charts. Generally, here at Wild Instincts, we use something about their physical appearance easy to identify. For instance, a melanistic color phase Eastern Gray Squirrel in a litter of non-melanistics would be referred to as “the black one”.  Sometimes we can be as simple as “the male” or “the female”.  Sometimes eating habits can earn the reference of “the fussy one”.

In the case of “The Boys” as these bear cubs are known as, we refer to them as “The Big Guy” and “The Little Guy”.  Sometimes they are “The Monster” and “The Mellow Guy”. “The Monster” has earned a reputation of being pushy (like a bulldozer) and very demanding! “The Mellow Guy” is much more laid back.

What do they eat?

They are currently getting fed about every 4-5 hours around the clock. Generally 8:00 a.m., noon, between 4:00-5:00p.m., between 10:00-10:30p.m., and between 3:30-4:30 a.m.

It takes about 30-45 minutes to feed them from prep to clean-up.

They eat a special formula which very closely matches the composition of their mother’s milk 30% protein and 50% fat. Incidentally, this is the same as European Beaver Milk composition.


We’ve had them over 50 days now and they’ve certainly grown!

Left is front paw on January 11, 2012. Right is front paw on March 2,2012.

Even though “The Big Guy” weighs in currently at about 12 lbs and “The Little Guy” weighs in at 10.6 lbs, “The Little Guy” is more developmentally advanced making us think he’s a little older. His eyes opened first, his teeth erupted first, his ears are finally standing up for longer periods and not as floppy as “The Big Guy”. He also is more coordinated and started showing appropriate startle bluff charges and blowing.

It is quite possible they have different fathers and therefore are genetically different enough to explain size differences.

Will They Stay Together?

It depends. We were supposed to go into dens this week to see about surrogate moms for them, but the weather had other ideas. Now we wait until next week.

IF we can find a single den with a sow that doesn’t already have three or four or even five cubs of her own then there’s a chance they’ll stay together. Cub production has increased in WI and having 4 or 5 cubs is not uncommon these days. We don’t want to put too much strain on a sow and endanger the whole litter, by placing too many cubs with one mom.

IF we can find two separate dens with a smaller number of cubs in each den, then “The Boys” will be split up and each placed in a den with other cubs. They will still have siblings, just not the sibling they spent their first weeks with.

More “ifs” this year than most because the black bear research projects are coming to an end. Researchers have removed most of the radio-collars from the sows they’ve been following. That means we only have a very limited number of dens to go into and know for sure how many cubs are with the mom.

IF we cannot place BOTH cubs in the wild, even if they are in different dens, our plan is to raise BOTH until October. It is much better for wild orphans to be raised with conspecifics (one of their own species…even if it’s not a biological sibling). They stay wilder more easily and learn how to be what they’re supposed to be from each other. In that case, then yes, they would stay together.

That’s the plan…either place them both or keep them both. We don’t want to place one and then raise one as a single (although chances are very great we’ll get more cubs in later in the year). In dealing with wildlife, we never know what will present itself or when. What they say about the best laid plans not going accordingly is even more apropos when dealing with wild animals.

How Long Will You Have Them?

In the absolute best case scenario, we’d only have them until the second week of March. See “Will They Stay Together?” above for explanation of surrogate mom search.

Otherwise, they will be raised at Wild Instincts until after bear season ends in October and then they will be released.

We only interact with the cubs during feeding times. There is no talking. Only the interaction absolutely necessary for feeding and cleaning. This helps keep them growing up bears!

"The Little Guy" is getting pretty big!



  1. Such meticulous attention to details and ethics. You guys rock.

  2. Your dedication to the animals is so obvious-don’t ever lose it.

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