New Bedford’s BPZOO provides home to orphaned black bear cubs

“The Buttonwood Park Zoo has a deep, rich history of caring for black bears and is once again providing a home for an adorable pair of cubs recently orphaned in the wild.

BPZOO has been without black bears since last September, with the passing of 23-year-old Toby. He, along with two females Amy and Ursula, had lived at BPZOO since 2000.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game contacted BPZOO in late June, inquiring if there was space for two cubs who had been orphaned because of bear/human conflicts in Homer and Eagle River in Alaska.

“Providing a home to orphaned, non-releasable wildlife is paramount to our mission,” said Zoo Director Gary Lunsford. “Given that BPZOO has been caring for black bears since our inception in 1894, we jumped at the opportunity to work with officials in Alaska to provide a forever home to these cubs in need.”

The two cubs, an approximately eight-month-old male, and a seven-month-old female, arrived at BPZOO the last week in August and are currently quarantining under the watchful eyes of BPZOO vet staff.

“We are already getting a clear picture of their individual personalities,” said BPZOO Veterinarian

Emmy Budas. “He is the sweet and gentle type – gently taking treats from us, while she is showing us her sassy side. Both cubs are eating well and appear to be in excellent health.”

After spending time getting to know their personalities, zookeepers and veterinarian staff carefully considered names for the cubs. With a nod to their Alaskan homeland, the male cub has been named Moose, the official state land mammal, and the female Oona, named after an inland lake, not far from Juneau.

Moose and Oona will remain in quarantine for approximately 30 days to ensure they are in good health and to give them time to adjust to their new environment.

Black bears have been making local headlines this summer, spotted lumbering through towns on the South Coast and South Shore. As their natural habitats here, and in Alaska, continue to shrink, bear/human conflict increases with detrimental implications for the animals. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, or MassWildlife, offers a variety of resources on their website to prevent conflicts with black bears, including limiting food sources, protecting pets, crops, bees, and livestock with electric fences, or removing bird feeders.

“We look forward to introducing the new bears to the community,” Lunsford said. “We expect this will happen sometime towards the end of September. In the meantime, please do your part to keep bears wild. You should never feed or otherwise approach a wild bear. Be respectful of nature so that we can protect it together.”

The Buttonwood Park Zoo is located at 425 Hawthorn Street in New Bedford. The Zoo is open from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm with the last admission at 4:15 pm from April through October, and from 9:00 am through 4:00 pm, with the last admission at 3:15 pm from November through March. Ticket prices for non-New Bedford Residents are $10 for adults/$6 for children 3-12; Ticket prices for New Bedford Residents are $7.50 for adults/$4.50 for children 3-12. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit bpzoo.org.

About Black Bears

American black bears are one of eight species of bears found around the world. Common across North America, they are currently present in 40 U.S. states, 12 provinces and territories of Canada, and 6 states of northern Mexico. Loss of habitat and unregulated hunting resulted in extirpation of black bears across large portions of their range by the early 1900s. While loss of forest cover has eliminated black bears from many areas, their numbers are increasing. Climate change seems to have enabled black bears to range farther north. American black bears are the smallest of the three bear species in North America, ranging from 200 – 600 pounds, with males being significantly larger. Average life expectancy for American black bears is 20 years. “