SOUTHERN COLORADO – Two orphaned bear cubs are settling in for a long winter’s nap before being released back into the wild. Colorado Parks & Wildlife officers moved the two male cubs into their den on Pikes Peak on Friday, Jan. 28. 

The cubs will spend the winter in hibernation in the den before heading back into the wild this spring.

“We’re going to take these bears up into a natural setting and put them into an artificial den to try and mimic that natural hibernation that they go through,” said Travis Sauder, CPW’s Wildlife Manager for the Pikes Peak Region.

The orphaned bears were found in July of 2021, with their mom shot and killed south of Woodland Park. CPW officers say the sow was killed during a poaching incident. They’re still looking for information that leads to an arrest or citation. 

“We take poaching very seriously. The wildlife belongs to the people of Colorado, so this is a crime against all the people of Colorado. We put a lot of hours into trying to catch who did this. On something like this, we rely on the public’s help,” said Sauder.

They’re offering a reward and have an anonymous tip line, Operation Game Thief. To provide anonymous information about a wildlife violation, call them at 877-265-6648 or email game.thief@state.co.us.

Cubs typically are dependent on their momma bear through their first year at least. The orphaned bears have been at Wet Mountain Wildlife Rehabilitation in Wetmore, Colo. since last summer. The two brothers are just over a year old, weighing over 100 pounds each. 

“At the rehabilitation center, they make sure these bears get the nutrition they need to grow to be released back into the wild. But also make sure they don’t get habituated to people, so they have a higher chance of success when they’re back into the wild,” said Sauder.

Wildlife officers will be tracking the cubs once they emerge from hibernation this spring to follow their progress as rehabbed adult bears. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo supplied GPS ear tags, helping CPW strengthen this and future successful reintroduction efforts. 

“There’s a shared passion of preserving wildlife and being bear aware,” said Rebecca Zwicker, an animal care manager at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

“Our members decided they wanted to fund this tracking device. They fully and 100% funded this project. We already have the first two trackers on these cubs and I think we have at least 2 years’ worth of tracking devices with this funding,” said Zwicker.

For the first time, CPW will be able track the cubs moves once they emerge this spring. From the new data, they’ll study wildlife relocation success and hope to grow ongoing efforts to reduce human-bear conflicts around the Pikes Peak Region.

“A big piece of it is gathering as much information as you can. So this will hopefully fil in those gaps and help guide what best ways to preserve wildlife and make better processes to help human-bear conflict,” said Zwicker.

“Anytime we can save a bear and put it back out, not only is that a win for the bear population. But it’s also a great win for us and all the effort we put into saving these guys,” said Sauder.

The CPW and Cheyenne Zoo partnership grew from the Springs Bear Smart Task Force that CPW formed with residents of Colorado Springs neighborhoods where bear conflicts are common.