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Utah agency rehabilitating 6 orphaned bear cubs

MILLVILLE, Cache County — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resource is caring for several rescued bear cubs in what has proved to be an especially busy year. Biologists are working to get them ready to be released in time for winter hibernation.

After being picked up in the Wellington area Monday, a male bear cub is now at a temporary home under the care of the DWR.

"We're not sure where mom was," said DWR biologist Darren Debloois.

The cub is just the latest in a total of six young bears that recently became orphaned.

"One mom was taken by a hunter; and another one, a homeowner took mom," Debloois said. "We have a pair that was from a bear hit on Highway 6."

The bears will live for the next several weeks at Utah State University's Predator Research Facility. A partnership between the university and the DWR formed four years ago that allows them to be housed there. In the past, cubs were taken to a facility in Idaho.

"We bring them here, fatten them up and give them a little hand up," Debloois said. "They'll have plenty of reserves to hibernate for winter."

Debloois also pointed out that the DWR is dealing with an unusually high number of orphaned cubs this year.

"We do know that we've got a growing bear population," Debloois said. "We see bears moving into areas where we've had bears historically, but for a while hadn't seen in years."

If everything goes as planned, the bears will be fitted with GPS collars and released in the areas they were found in October or November. Debloois said the program has been successful so far.

USU's College of Natural Resources also has a live webcam set up where people can check on the cubs' progress: qcnr.usu.edu/bear_cam.

"It's a privilege to be able to deal with them close up," Debloois said. "We try to limit our activity up here, not be here very long."