HELENA – The three grizzly bear cubs orphaned near Lincoln have likely found a home at one of Canada’s premiere zoos, Zoo sauvage de Saint-Félicien in Quebec.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the zoo on the appropriate paperwork necessary for the placement. The process could take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months.
“Once the cubs arrived at FWP’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, we knew the best outcome was their placement at a qualified facility,” said FWP spokesman Greg Lemon.
Zoo sauvage de Saint-Félicien is a member of the Canadian Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA), which is the Canadian equivalent of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in the United States.
AZA accreditation is the primary standard FWP uses in selecting a placement facility for grizzly bear cubs.
“The staff and myself are very excited for the arrival of the orphan grizzly cubs. We have room for them and we’ll keep the family together. That should be reassuring for them. The well-being of the animals under our care is very important and we’ll provide a stimulating habitat, a well-trained staff and a trainer for the newcomers,” said Christine Gagnon, director of conservation and education at Zoo sauvage de Saint-Félicien. “We’ll be pleased to keep the people of Montana informed about their adaptation and growth through our website and Facebook page.”
The cubs’ mother was hit by a vehicle on Highway 200 east of Lincoln nearly a month ago. They were trapped and transported to FWP’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center a few days later.
FWP immediately put the word out through various channels that the cubs needed a permanent home. Unlike black bear cubs, the department does not rehabilitate and release grizzly bear cubs back into the wild.
With only limited options available, finding a suitable facility that represents a long-term answer for grizzly cubs can be difficult.
The search for a home for the cubs involved people from around the country, including author Susan Reneau, who lives in Montana, and conservationist Stuart Strahl, who is the president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society.
“We’ve heard from a lot of people with concerns about these cubs,” Lemon said. “Susan and Stuart were real champions and instrumental in helping us connect with Quebec.”
If an acceptable location wasn’t identified, FWP would have been faced with potential euthanasia of the cubs.
The process of finalizing the placement continues. Once in Quebec, the cubs will be on permanent loan and remain the property of the state of Montana, through a memorandum of understanding between FWP, the zoo and the USFWS.
To find out more about Zoo sauvage de Saint-Félicien, visit here.