Manitoba

Unbearably cute cubs rescued after den accidentally disturbed by Manitoba farmer

A couple of tiny black bear cubs whose den was accidentally disturbed by a farmer doing late-season harvesting are being cared for around the clock at a Manitoba rehabilitation centre.

'They're super tiny.… They're incredibly vulnerable at this young age': Black Bear Rescue Manitoba

The tiny bear cubs need to be consistently massaged and fed, says a spokesperson for Black Bear Rescue Manitoba. (Black Bear Rescue Manitoba/Facebook)

A couple of tiny two-day-old black bear cubs, separated from their mother when their den was accidentally disturbed by a farmer, are now being cared for around the clock at a Manitoba rehabilitation centre.

Julie Woodyer, a spokesperson for Black Bear Rescue Manitoba, told CBC's Marjorie Dowhos on Radio Noon Thursday that the two males are just a half a pound each and can fit in the palm of your hand.

They're the smallest cubs the rehabilitation centre has ever worked with.

"They're super tiny. Their eyes are closed, their ears are closed. They're incredibly vulnerable at this young age," she said.

Watch the tiny bears sleep:

The bears were discovered by a southeastern Manitoba farmer earlier this month, Woodyer said.

Some bears hibernate under the snow rather than in dens made of forest undergrowth or underground. In this case, the mother bear and cubs were doing just that — in the middle of a farmer's corn field.

"He was actually harvesting and travelling through there on a big piece of equipment and the adult bear popped up and ran off," Woodyer said.

"He went back to check and here were these two little tiny bears there."

The farmer felt horrible about it, she said, but when he realized the mother bear wasn't coming back, he took the cubs into the cab of the vehicle to keep them from freezing and called the rescue for help.

It was important to get the cubs to the rehabilitation centre in Stonewall, Man., as soon as possible and not wait for the mother bear to return because she likely wouldn't.

"The truth is, it's rarely successful, and in all likelihood, they would've frozen to death while waiting for their mother to return, if she returned at all," she said, explaining that bears are programmed to survive so they can continue to breed and sometimes will leave their cubs behind.

'Working around the clock'

The tiny bears are adorable, but caring for them is a big challenge.

Judy and Roger Stearns from the rehabilitation centre work together night and day to take care of the babies. They're fed goat's milk, massaged regularly to simulate their mother's tongue, kept in a warm place and monitored continuously, Woodyer said.

Turn on the sound to hear the tiny bears as they snuggle up with hot water bottles to stay warm:

"They're exhausted. They're working around the clock to care for these little souls," she said.

Bear cubs have sensitive systems and it's difficult to find anything that meets their nutritional needs the way their mother's milk does, she said. Their excrement is monitored regularly in case changes need to be made to their diet.

So far, the cubs are doing well.

About the Author

Rachel Bergen is a journalist for CBC Manitoba and previously reported for CBC Saskatoon. Find her on Twitter at @r_bergen or email her at rachel.bergen@cbc.ca.

With files from Marjorie Dowhos and Janice Grant

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