It still is a little early in northern Maine for black bears to be leaving their den, but one sow and her cub were already out early last week looking for food along Route 1 in Caribou when the adult bear was struck and killed by a passing car.
At around 10:30 at night, Game Warden Alan Dudley received a call from the Caribou Police Department at the crash scene that an orphaned bear cub was in the area, and the officers could hear it calling.
Alan responded to the scene, he could hear the cub bleating in distress. Slowly following the sounds without trying to spook the cub even further away, Dudley found the cub a couple feet up a tree, too inexperienced to climb any further.
Seeing the cub in his maglight, the game warden snatched the cub and walked out to the road with him, where he secured the cub in a small dog kennel and brought him home.
Once home, the cub quieted right down and slept through the night in the Kennel. While the cub was sleeping, Alan reached out to MDIFW Wildlife Biologist Amanda DeMusz as to what the next step would be.
With most females still in their wintering dens, a plan was devised to place the orphaned cub with another sow that had cubs.
The Department tracks over 80 collared female bears located in three different study areas around the state in order to monitor and manage Maine’s black bear population. Wildlife Biologist Randy Cross is the field leader for the bear study, has researched bears for over 35 years in Maine, and has handled thousands of bears during that time.
Randy knows the bears in these study areas as if they were family. Some female bears in the study have been monitored for over 20 years by Cross and he has seen them produce dozens of cubs.
Knowing that a sow with a cub will accept another cub if its placed in its den, Randy reviewed his notes on female collared bears in the area, and chose two adult bears with a good history of producing and raising their cubs.
Wednesday Morning, Randy and Amanda headed into the North Maine woods to the town of — to place the cub with its new mother.
After a 45 minute truck road over thawing, unpaved roads, the pair unloaded the snowmobile and rode an additional two miles into the woods.
Getting close, they snowshoed in about a mile to find the first bear den, only to find that she had moved from her den. They travelled to the second den, where they knew there was an 11 year old sow who had one cub.
She was still there with her cub, positioned under the upturned roots of a blown down tree.
Randy moved quietly and deliberately as to not alarm the sow, and moved closer with the cub in his hand, and when at the den entrance, gently placed the cub at the mouth of the den, where it crawled into the den and leaned against its new mother.
With winter still hanging on tightly in much of Aroostook County, the cub will be in the den with his adopted mother for a little bit longer. When they emerge, the sow will take care of the new cub as if it were her own.