black bears
The orphaned black bears going to Amarillo Zoo. Courtesy San Diego Humane Society

Following a two-day road trip in an air-conditioned van, two orphaned bear cubs who had spent more than a year at the San Diego Humane Society’s Ramona Wildlife Center arrived at their new home at the Amarillo Zoo in Texas Tuesday.

The 18-month-old bears were transferred in the van Monday and Tuesday by SDHS Project Wildlife staff. The team arrived Tuesday morning and successfully unloaded the bears.

The brother and sister cubs arrived at the Ramona Wildlife Center on Aug. 18, 2021 after they were captured by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in the Three Rivers area in Tulare County.

According to the SDHS, the bears had been seen without their mother, seeking food from people — behavior that ultimately leads to problems for both bears and humans. For their own safety and the safety of the public, CDFW staff captured the cubs and transported them to the SDHS for care.

During the 13-month stay at the Ramona Wildlife Center, Project Wildlife’s team prepared the bears for a potential return to the wild by minimizing human interaction and moving them to outdoor enclosures as soon as they were ready. The move outdoors last November was significant because the bears got acclimated to the weather and had more opportunities to run, climb trees, play and forage for their food.

SDHS wildlife care specialists worked with the bears to “develop their wild instincts” by having them search for food. The bears consumed about 10 pounds of food every day, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, honey and assorted proteins.

Unfortunately, despite the staff’s best efforts, the bears were too acclimated to humans. Once staff confirmed that the bear cubs would not be returned to the wild, the female was named Truffle and her brother was named Oyster.

Animal care staff began the process of training the bears to enter a large transport crate, using positive reinforcement and treats, so that the bears would be ready for transport once the location of their future home was determined.

“While it is always our goal to return rehabilitated animals back to their natural habitat, we are committed to finding other paths when there are no other options,” said Andy Blue, campus director of San Diego Humane Society’s Ramona Wildlife Center. “Since these bears cannot be returned to the wild we are grateful for CDFW and the Amarillo Zoo for working with us on a solution to have these two young bears live out their lives as ambassador animals.”

City News Service contributed to this article.



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Ellen Bullock