For the first time in its 40-year history, the USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services (WS) National Wildlife Research Center’s (NWRC) field station in Millville, UT, is home to more than just coyotes. Recently, two orphaned black bear cubs arrived at the facility as part of a collaborative effort with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (Division) to rehabilitate the cubs.
It’s not uncommon for the Division to take in orphaned bears in hopes of rehabilitating them and releasing them back into the wild. However, it can be difficult to find an appropriate facility to house bears.
“This is a win-win for the Division and the NWRC,” said Dr. John Shivik, mammals program coordinator for the Division. “They have a great facility in Millville and the people there are well qualified to work with bears. Note only will the bears get a second chance, but hopefully we can also learn something about bear behavior.”
Starting with these two bears, NWRC researchers hope to study whether human contact at a young age makes bears more likely to become problem animals when they’re older. The cubs will spend the summer at the facility fattening up and preparing for release back into the wild this fall. In the meantime, the amount of human contact they experience at the facility will be closely monitored.
“Once released, we’ll be able to follow these and any future rehab bears kept at the facility to see how their experiences here may influence future interactions with people,” notes Dr. Julie Young, NWRC’s Utah field station leader. “This will help us develop better management strategies for bears.”
WS’ NWRC is the only Federal research organization devoted exclusively to resolving conflicts between people and wildlife through the development of effective, selective, and socially responsible methods, tools, and techniques. Experts at NWRC’s Utah field station focus on the development of new management tools to reduce conflicts with predators, including coyotes, wolves, bear, and mountain lion. In addition to the two black bear cubs, the field station currently houses approximately 100 coyotes for study. Employees have experience working with a variety of captive animals including bears.