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N.J. Rehab Facility Preparing Orphaned West Milford Bear Cubs For The Wild

CBS 2 Tracks The Progress Of The Babies During Trip To Woodlands Wildlife Refuge
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PITTSTOWN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Three orphaned bear cubs found earlier this week are being rehabilitated in the hills of Hunterdon County.

CBS 2′s Vanessa Murdock took a trip to the Woodlands Wildlife Refuge on Friday to check up on the cubs.

By human standards, the three bear cubs were having the worst week of their life. They were orphaned Sunday when their mother was euthanized for breaking into a West Milford home. Video shows one of cubs dangling 50 feet off the ground after it scrambled up a tree during the ordeal.

Days later, they were scared, but safe at the Woodlands Wildlife Refuge. Murdock was offered a rare look inside.

“They’re trying to hide. They know that people aren’t something they’re supposed to be friendly with,” refuge executive director Tracy Leaver said.

Leaver said the short time the cubs had with their mother is irreplaceable.

“They’ve learned some good instincts and we’re happy to see that. Their behavior is defensive, which is really great — as it should be,” Leaver said.

Once Murdock stepped outside the cubs’ enclosure they let their guard down a bit, displaying a little sibling rivalry. One even performed acrobatics, likely showing off what it had learned from its mother.

Leaver said it takes a lot of patience, time, effort and money to rehabilitate the bears. Every week formula alone costs more than $200, Murdock reported.

And there are eight more orphaned bear cubs on site for nurturing, too. However, the refuge isn’t just for bears. It’s a temporary home to all kinds of animals, including baby raccoons, an injured baby fox, and a Sulcata tortoise that charged the camera after seeing his reflection.

There is even a Canadian lynx. About 1,000 animals are rehabilitated at the non-profit facility every year, but education is of equal importance, Murdock reported.

“We understand that the mother of these bears broke into a house, and while it probably wasn’t any fault of that homeowner, perhaps someone in the neighborhood was feeding bears,” Leaver said. “We don’t want this loss of life with the bear population and we don’t want any people hurt by bears either.”

Leaver added it’s important to work together so that more bear cubs aren’t orphaned before they’re old enough to fend for themselves.

In July, all 11 cubs at the refuge will move into a much larger enclosure where they can enjoy several different caves and even a pond and running stream. They’ll be released into the wild next spring, Murdock reported.

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