Orphaned polar bear cubs from Churchill arrive at Assiniboine Park Zoo

Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Zoo has two new polar bear cubs that have just arrived from northern Manitoba.

Bears' mother accidentally killed by cracker shell meant to scare her and cubs away

One of two orphaned polar bear cubs that arrived at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Zoo late Tuesday. (Assiniboine Park Zoo)

Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Zoo has two new polar bear cubs that have just arrived from northern Manitoba.

The orphaned 11-month-old male cubs were relocated late Tuesday from Churchill to Winnipeg, where they're now staying at the zoo's Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre.

"Last night they came off the plane, walked into their holding facility and started eating right away," Dr. Chris Enright, the zoo's head of veterinary services, said on Wednesday.

"It's one of those mixed things," he said. "I think all of us would prefer these cubs be roaming the tundra with mom. Unfortunately, mom is no longer alive and these cubs would not survive without her."

The pair's mother was accidentally killed by a civilian trying to scare her and the cubs away from a building with a cracker shell.

Cracker shells, which are shot from firearms, make a lot of noise and are only intended to scare animals.

The cubs will spend a standard 30-day quarantine period at the zoo's Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre. (Assiniboine Park Zoo)
The shell ended up striking the mother, causing significant blood loss, according to Manitoba Conservation, which decided the cubs should be moved to Winnipeg.

"Polar bears at this age (11 months) need to stay with their mothers for at least the first two winters to learn how to hunt and to avoid attacks by other, larger polar bears," the province said in a news release.

"Polar bear experts have advised that cubs of this age do not have any chance of survival if left on their own."

Enright and Gary Lunsford, the zoo's general curator, travelled to Churchill to supervise the cubs' trip to Winnipeg.

"In a perfect world they would be out there, waiting for the ice to freeze over the bay with mom, and this is the next best thing," Enright said.

"We can give these bears a good life, and we will give these bears a good life."

The bears will spend a standard 30-day quarantine period at the conservation centre.

The zoo is currently home to seven polar bears at its Journey to Churchill exhibit: Hudson and Humphrey, who came to Winnipeg from the Toronto Zoo, along with Storm, Aurora, Kaska, Blizzard and Star, who were all rescued from northern Manitoba.

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