Audubon Zoo Welcomes 2 New Bear Cubs

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Photo courtesy of the Audubon Zoo (John Gomes)

NEW ORLEANS — From the Audubon Nature Institute:

Two young black bear cubs are the newest residents at Audubon Zoo. The two cubs arrived in New Orleans following a long trek from their temporary home at Alaska Zoo in Anchorage, Alaska.    

The two sisters were rescued by Alaska Department of Fish and Game after they were found alone in a den outside Anchorage. The cubs are North American Black Bears, the most common bear found in North America and range from Mexico through much of the United States and Canada.  

“We don’t know what happened to their mother, the cubs had been alone for some time before they were reported to Fish and Game,” said Patrick Lampi, director of Alaska Zoo. “Bear mothers are extremely protective of their cubs, it is fortunate they were found before they starved or were killed by predators.” Alaska Zoo has cared for the cubs since they were found in June. “The cubs were very popular with our guests this summer and we will miss having them at Alaska Zoo, but we know they will thrive in their new home in New Orleans,” he said. 

The two black bear cubs will make their new home in Audubon Zoo’s Louisiana Swamp exhibit where they will join Sassafras, a young Louisiana black bear cub found orphaned in North Louisiana earlier this year.  Louisiana black bears are the state’s official mammal. They are one of 16 subspecies of black bear and mostly found in the forested wetlands of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley and have been seen in almost every parish in Louisiana.  At one time, Louisiana black bears were listed as threatened on the Endangered Species list due to hunting and habitat loss. Through focus on public education, population management, and habitat preservation, the population has successfully recovered.  

“Bear cubs need to be raised together when they are young,” said Liz Wilson, curator of the Louisiana Swamp exhibit at Audubon Zoo. “These cubs will benefit from growing up together. Sassafras has been alone in her exhibit for about a month now and she needs other cubs to play with and learn from. We are thrilled to be able to offer a home to these two orphaned cubs.”  

Currently, these young black bear cubs weigh between 65-75 pounds, but could weigh up to 300 pounds when fully grown.  Sassafras is somewhat smaller than the other two, she will likely weigh up to 200 pounds when she is full size. 

Audubon Zoo has been home to black bears for more than 20 years, but with the passing of 21-year-old “Camille” in 2021, there were no black bears at the Zoo until Sassafras arrived earlier this year.  All three bear cubs will be in their new habitat later this month.

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