GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources handles a wide variety of jobs from maintaining parks, controlling the hunting that goes on and cuddling bear cubs.
In a series of tweets earlier this month, the DNR discussed one of its many responsibilities when it comes to rehousing abandoned bear cubs, especially during the hard winter months.
The process begins with researchers going out into the forest looking for sows, or female bears that have been determined to be very motherly. The sows have been fitted for GPS radio collars that allow the DNR to track them. This comes in handy when the sows are in underground dens during the winter.
Once a sow has been found, the team will sedate the bear and perform an exam. The exam includes drawing blood, weighing and measuring the animal, plus fitting it for a new collar.
But the exam can take up to an hour and sometimes the sows also have young cubs who have not gained enough fat or grown enough fur to stay warm without their mother’s help. That’s where the cuddlers come in.
The cubs are placed inside the jackets of what the DNR called “limited-term professional bear cuddlers.” While the bears only weigh up to 6 pounds, the DNR said that they can be difficult to hold due to their large claws.
Once the exam is done, the bears are all placed back into the den, where the mom sleeps off the rest of the sedative. The goal for the DNR the next year is to find the sow with the same number of cubs.
There is an additional step for orphaned cubs. According to the Twitter thread, the sow will push her cubs into a tree after she wakes up to get them away from perceived danger. During that time, while the mother is keeping an eye out, researchers will push the abandoned cub the same tree so it can collect a gel that makes it smell like the others. Once the mother returns, she adopts the additional cub and the group continues on as a family.
Hear more on the exciting profession of bear cuddling from the DNR on the WOOD TV8 Live Desk Thursday at 1 p.m.