Abandoned bear cubs recover at McCall sanctuary

A file photo of "Boo Boo" the bear when he rescued from an Idaho wildfire in 2012. Boo Boo was famously rehabbed in the Snowden Wildlife Sanctuary near McCall.


by Stephanie Zepelin

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Posted on November 26, 2013 at 11:55 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 27 at 5:00 PM

McCALL -- The last couple of summers, we have had intense fire seasons here in Idaho. The fires have an effect on people, outdoorsmen, and of course, the animals that live in the wilderness.

On Tuesday, KTVB went to the wildlife sanctuary that helped rehabilitate Boo Boo, a cub whose paws were burned in a wildfire in the summer of 2012. This year they have a new group of orphaned bears.

Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary is nestled in the woods near McCall, and serves as a home to animals that need a little help, or a permanent home, after injury or abandonment. They have several birds that live there, and now a fox kit. Snowdon is perhaps best known for their bear cubs.

"We have four (cubs) that are already out into our natural two-acre enclosure, and then we have another one that is smaller, came in later, that is being kept in a smaller enclosure till it can get bigger," said Carolyn Walpole, with the Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary.

Fish and Game officials say around five cubs are orphaned each year due to a variety of factors, and in years past as many as 53 cubs were orphaned in one year. Jeff Rohlman, a regional wildlife manager with Fish and Game, said in 2007, they had a particularly high number bear cubs orphaned; it was also a bad fire year.

"The fires affect them a couple ways," said Rohlman. "Number one, it burns up their habitat so they're displaced. The other thing they do is directly burn up the animals and another one is they can cause them to go separate directions where they get orphaned that way."

Rohlman said fires are good in the long run and help replenish the habitats. In the short term, though, they can make it tough on young bears, and some of those bears end up at Snowdon.

"Ordinarily when the cubs come to us, they're very undernourished and just in poor physical condition, so we work at putting lots of weight on them," said Walpole.

The staple of a bear cub diet at Snowdon is dry dog food, but they also mix in fresh fruit and vegetables.

"We feed them dog food because we want to fatten them up and it's a good source of carbohydrates," Walpole said.

Often times Snowdon, which is a nonprofit organization, has a hard time getting enough dog food, and ask for donations from the community because the cubs eat so much each day.

"They're going through about 50 pounds a day right now," said Walpole. "As they get bigger, closer to release dates in the spring, they'll be going through at least double that amount."

As for Boo Boo, they put at GPS collar on him before they released him this spring, and say, he is doing well, hanging out west of McCall in the area of Council Mountain.