Two Orphaned Grizzly Bear Cubs Find a Home at the Maryland Zoo

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Photo by Jeffrey F. Bill, Courtesy of Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

After a very long year for two bear cubs from Montana, the pair of furry beasts have found a home right here in Baltimore.

The Maryland Zoo announced the arrival of two 11-month old female grizzly bear cubs this morning. This is the first time in 140 years that the zoo has taken in any grizzly bears.

“Although no one likes the tragic circumstances that lead to the cubs coming here to the Zoo, we are pleased that we can offer a permanent home to these sisters,” said Maryland Zoo president and CEO Don Hutchinson in a statement.

In a release, the zoo said both cubs were discovered foraging last year on tribal lands in Montana without their mother. They were six months old at the time. A tribal biologist who observed them in the wild for several days noticed one of them was “failing” and made the call to capture them and have them examined. A veterinarian discovered the smaller of the two cubs had been shot, according to a statement from the zoo’s senior veterinarian, Ellen Bronson.

More tragically, experts discovered the cubs’ mother several weeks later with “severe gunshot wounds to her face,” the zoo said. She was euthanized for humane reasons. A DNA test later confirmed that she was the cubs’ mother.

After neither cub was found to be fit for release back into the wild, a Montana agency put out a request to zoos across the country to help find them a home. Maryland Zoo officials responded.

As one could imagine, it wasn’t easy to bring two grizzly bears across the country. The zoo’s general curator, Mike McClure, and Bronson flew out to Montana in December for a health check and to arrange to move the cubs to Charm City. After some delays caused by severe weather, staff were able to load the bears into a vehicle to transport them back here. The trip took three days, according to the zoo.

Now they’re here on loan for good, McClure said. The cubs recently finished a 30-day quarantine period in which they became acclimated to their new yard, living quarters and the zoo staff.

McClure said the grizzlies have been “very curious” and are digging, rolling around and “exploring the pool” in the habitat. “Essentially, they are bear cubs just being bear cubs, which is fascinating to watch,” he said.

The zoo didn’t say when they’ll be ready to appear before guests, but staff have already been watching them from a public area to prepare them for their official introduction to Baltimore.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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