Story Of Nine: Orphaned Bears Move Onto Survival Camp
All the bears cubs are within a week or two of the same age because bears give birth within a very brief period in the winter. In between feedings, each sibling set of bears is kept together in an enclosure separated from their other sets for sleeping.
When waiting their turn to be fed, they frequently stand to peak over the edges of their enclosures or crates, but they are not yet big enough to climb over. After feedings, they are placed in the open space where they mix and tussle with each other for a few minutes before returning to their enclosures.
All the bears are growing well, and just last week began developing enough strength and coordination to start walking wobbly around, wrestling with each other and exploring the nooks and edges of the bear cub house. Like human babies, cubs frequently explore things in their environment by putting them in their mouths.
Shoes and pant legs are likely to be nibbled, and frequently a cub will discover that another cub has latched onto its ear and is happily sucking away. Natasha, Peter, and Seva in particular do not like this, and after a couple of squawks of protest, wander off searching for a quiet spot away from the other bears. The others tend to enjoy skittering and climbing about in a big group as long as allowed.
At this time of year, the bears are learning to eat from a plate rather than a bottle. Some are making more progress than others. As they get older, it is important that they have less and less contact with humans. Transitioning to plate feeding is the first step in withdrawing direct human contact. Since bear cubs are coming directly from their mother, usually they are fed from a bottle for a couple of weeks until they gain enough weight and strength to transition to plates. However, since the new bear cubs are so old, it was decided to start them directly on the plates, to avoid the additional stress of transitioning from bottle to plates in the next few weeks.
The first three bears that arrived at the Center and are part of this group have been at the center the longest, and all are eating off plates for some time now.
The second set of cubs, all males, arrived in February, orphaned by a legal hunt in the Smolensk region. The hunter was head of the local hunting society and a person who makes films about wildlife of the region. He was familiar with the orphan bear center and brought the cubs. All three of them have been eating off of plates for one week now.
The third set of cubs were delivered by the director of the Polistovsky Reserve in Novgorod Region, where again a fishermen's dogs scared the mother away from the den. These cubs are still on the bottle, to ensure that they continue to receive enough nourishment, but attempts are being made to interest them in food from a plate.
The first nine bear cubs will be moved altogether to the outdoor enclosure in April. For the next two months they will get acclimatized to the outdoor environment while protected from predators. No human contact will be allowed, and food will be delivered while they are sleeping in the den house. Depending on their size and development, the new bear cubs may move with the first nine cubs, or they may be introduced the enclosure a few weeks later.