They seem cuddly and cute – until the claws come out.
Big eyes, perky ears, a fluffy coat and playful, curious demeanors may fool you, but these seemingly cuddly little animals are grizzly bears with big teeth, claws and strength.
“It’s one animal the keepers will not be going in [the pen] with,” said Glenn Grant, general manager of the B.C. Wildlife Park. “Grizzlies are a little more aggressive. They do like to chew and claw.”
The B.C. Wildlife Park acquired two new grizzly bear cubs from the Yukon this past week – and they were introduced to the public on Aug. 1 in conjunction with B.C. Bear Day.
The cubs, born in early February, are siblings, with the female weighing in at about 14 kilograms and the male tipping the scales at about 16 kilograms.
A conservation officer found the cubs in Whitehorse near the body of their dead mother.
The cause of their mother’s death has not been determined.
Grant said because of their young age, they couldn’t survive in the wild without their mother.
“They’d probably be dead by now,” Grant said.
“They don’t know how to gather food. They don’t know what denning is,” he said.
Grant said the bears could have a chance of surviving in the wild at the age of two.
The park obtained the cubs through a referral.
The park in east Kamloops now has three black bears and three grizzly bears.
Shardik, the elderly grizzly, is being treated for arthritis. At the age of 37, he is far older than the average age in captivity for grizzlies, which is 30.
“Part of the problem with Shardik was that he wasn’t part of the education program [because of his age],” Grant said.
Grant plans to use the cubs in such a program beginning next spring, to teach people about bears – their habitat, eating habits and what to do when encountering a bruin.
“They’re not here to be caged animals. They’re here to educate,” he said. “It’s huge for the park.”
The cubs are staying in a pen recently occupied by porcupines from Vancouver.
“They’re doing really well,” Grant said. “Considering their surroundings are different, the temperature is different, everything’s different.”
In October they will be moved into Shardik’s pen, where the chemistry of the three bears will be tested. They may need separate space based on age differences.
The cubs have yet to be named, but Grant said there will be some sort of contest to affix monickers on the pair.
The best times of the day to view the cubs will be at feeding times – noon and 4 p.m.
Activities on Aug. 1 B.C. Bear Day included paint ball, a bouncy castle, a puppet show and other family-orientated activities.