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Orphaned bear cubs Memphis-bound

Orphaned bear cubs Memphis-bound

Posted: Friday, July 24, 2009 1:30 pm
By: By The Associated Press

The Messenger 07.24.09
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Three grizzly bear cubs that were orphaned in Wyoming last weekend when a hiker fatally shot their mother with a handgun will be shipped to the Memphis Zoo in the next few days, a zoo official said Tuesday.
The cubs should be star attractions in a new exhibit scheduled to open at the zoo in October, said Matt Thompson, the zoo’s curator of mammals.
“We built them a new home, and we’re going to give the orphan cubs a chance,” he said.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials said the hiker shot the bear near the northern Wyoming town of Clark at about 2:45 p.m. Sunday. Game and Fish officers found the cubs later that day near their mother’s body.
The hiker, who authorities declined to name, remains in the intensive care unit of a Billings, Mont., hospital with facial injuries and broken ribs.
The man was walking with a companion in sagebrush-covered terrain when they came upon the sow and her cubs, said Mark Bruscino, the department’s bear management program supervisor.
“I think it’s a clear case of a female defending her cubs,” Bruscino said.
The man’s companion told officials he heard yelling and gunfire, but didn’t see the encounter. Game and Fish officers haven’t been able to talk to the injured man, Bruscino said.
Officers found two gunshot wounds to the grizzly’s body when they discovered it close to where the man was injured, Bruscino said.
The cubs — two males and one female — were born this year and are about 40 pounds each, Thompson said. He said the female will probably grow to more than 500 pounds, while the males could exceed 1,000 pounds.
The Memphis Zoo has housed grizzly bears in the past, but eventually sent them to another zoo because its exhibit facilities weren’t up to standards, Thompson said. That won’t be necessary this time, he said.
“This is kind of bringing back the bears, so to speak,” Thompson said. “People are very excited about it.”
Thompson said the zoo’s new Teton Trek exhibit is designed to let visitors feel as though they’re in Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
In addition to grizzly bears, he said it will feature wolves, elk and waterfowl.
The exhibit’s grizzly bear area is larger than 1 acre and will feature a stream and waterfall that will allow the bears to catch fish while people watch them from an underwater viewing area, Thompson said.
The Memphis Zoo will spay and neuter the bears. Thompson said the bears should be fine living together as adults after they grow up together. He said the Wyoming cubs will likely be joined by two other orphaned grizzly cubs scheduled to be shipped from Alaska this fall.

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