Orphaned Tahoe bear cub doing well with expert care

An animal rescue group in Lake Tahoe gave ABC7 News a firsthand look at what it takes to care for an orphaned bear cub.
April 30, 2014 12:15:08 AM PDT
A tiny bear cub is still causing a sensation two weeks after she was left outside the Bear League at Lake Tahoe. The little cub, named Tahoe, was just over five pounds when she was rescued. She is now up to 7.7 pounds, thanks to expert care by trained volunteers.

Tahoe was discovered in a dog kennel, with no note or explanation, until an anonymous man called to find out how the cub was doing. Bear League director Ann Bryant said she told the man the cub was just fine "then he blew me away by saying I'm the one who dropped her off."

The man said he found the cub next to her dead mother's body at Humboldt Redwoods State Park. He said it was not obvious how the mother had died. Bryant said the man knew enough details about the cub to make his story believable. He told her he had called authorities and been told to leave the cub alone. But he knew she would die, so instead he drove her 400 miles to the Bear League. Bryant believes he is a hero.

When Bryant found the cub in the kennel, she rushed her to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care in South Lake Tahoe. The animal rescue center is run by Tom and Cheryl Millham, with help from a team of volunteers. They gave us a firsthand look at what it takes to care for such a young cub.

Tahoe has a carefully choreographed routine, repeated every four hours, all day long. First she drinks a bottle of a special formula made specifically for baby bears with lots of fat in it. Then she plays on the floor of the clinic for about an hour. Finally she is ready for a three hour nap, and then volunteers repeat the whole cycle again.

While Tahoe plays she is watched all the time to make sure she is safe, but human interaction is kept to a minimum.

"There's no talking to the bear - oh you sweet, little adorable - there's none of that," according to Tom Millham.

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care is the only certified bear rehabilitation facility in California, and the number one goal is to keep the cub wild so she can be released.

One big innovation in her care was dreamed up by a volunteer. The Millhams had been holding Tahoe while she drank her bottle. But the volunteer brought in an enormous stuffed toy duck. They made a hole in it to hold the bottle, and Tahoe is happy to drink from that. It is an important step forward because it means she has less contact with people.

This is the 59th cub the Millhams have cared for. They have all been successfully released and they all would have died without this care. Cheryl believes, "That's not acceptable, it really isn't. These guys all deserve a second chance at life."

It will be about a year before Tahoe is big enough to be on her own. As you can imagine, it costs a lot of money to rescue and care for wild animals properly.

To donate or volunteer for Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, click here. To donate or volunteer for the BEAR League, click here.

written and produced by Jennifer Olney


Load Comments