Garrison Forest School, home of the Garrison Forest Grizzlies, is thrilled to announce two of its newest Grizzlies. They are sisters from Montana, who are new to Maryland. Their hobbies include digging, dragging tree limbs around, wrestling and growling. Oh yes, and they’re covered in fur.
On March 1, The Maryland Zoo introduced to the public the first-ever grizzly bears to call the Zoo home with Garrison Forest School as the proud sponsor of the exhibit. For more than 30 years, the Garrison Forest School mascot, the Grizzly, has represented the fierceness, determination and resilience with which GFS students approach any endeavor. The story of the Grizzly cubs’ journey to Maryland embodies all these traits and more.
The orphaned cubs were found trying to survive in the wild without their mother. They were discovered on Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Lands in Montana. After observing that the smaller of the cubs was failing, the tribal biologist rescued the cubs on September 5, 2016. A veterinarian quickly discovered that the smaller cub had been shot. The cubs, which were approximately six-months-old at the time, were moved to The Montana Wildlife Center in Helena.
Several weeks after the cubs’ capture—and with the gunshot wounds healing nicely and the cubs no longer starving—the mother was found with severe shotgun wounds to her face and was subsequently euthanized. Due to their young age, the cubs were not good candidates for rehabilitation and release to the wild, so in early November, Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), which oversees the center where the cubs were, put out a national request to zoos to assist with finding the grizzly cubs a permanent home. (In another Garrison Forest connection, GFS alumna and current parent Martha Colhoun Williams ’85, an environmental lawyer and law professor, was appointed the director of Montana’s Department of FWP in January 2017.)
The Maryland Zoo, with its expertise on bears, jumped at the chance to give the cubs a home. In December, Zoo veterinarian Dr. Ellen Bronson and General Curator Mike McClure flew to Helena, Montana for what was to be a blizzard-filled, three-day, over-land trek back to Maryland. Everyone arrived safely, and after quarantine and getting used to their new digs—and dig is most of what they do—the grizzlies made their Maryland debut on March 1. “The cubs are probably around 11-months-old and are very curious about their outdoor yard, and have spent a lot of time digging up the mulch, rolling in the grasses and exploring the pool,” says Mr. McClure. “Essentially, they are bear cubs just being bear cubs, which is fascinating to watch. We hope everyone enjoys seeing them and learning about grizzly bears here at the Zoo.”
The yet unnamed cubs will soon have thousands of naming suggestions when The Maryland Zoo kicks off its online naming contest.