Manitoba

Winnipeg zoo's polar bear count rises to 9 with new cub

Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Zoo has welcomed another orphaned polar bear cub — the second one in 2 ½ weeks.

The cub, which weighs just 85 pounds, is the lightest orphan the conservation centre has received

The cub will undergo a standard 30-day quarantine period at the Assiniboine Park Zoo's polar bear conservation centre before he can be seen by the public. (Assiniboine Park Conservancy)

Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Zoo has welcomed another orphaned polar bear cub — the second one in 2 ½ weeks.

The one-year-old male bear arrived at the zoo's Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre on Dec. 9. A one-year-old female cub was taken in at the centre on Nov. 22.

Both cubs are under a standard 30-day quarantine period and will eventually, once they've grown and beefed up a bit, be moved to the zoo's 10-acre Journey to Churchill exhibit.

The exhibit is already home to seven other polar bears — Storm, Aurora, Kaska, Blizzard, Star, York and Eli — as well as other Arctic species in separate enclosures.

The Assiniboine Park's newest polar bear is about one year old and weighs just 39 kilograms (85 pounds), which is the lightest orphaned bear received to date. (Assiniboine Park Conservancy)

The latest cub was brought to the Leatherdale centre after conservation officers observed it for quite some time in the Churchill area. Several failed attempts were made to connect him with other female bears in the area and it became clear that intervention was needed, stated a news release from the Assiniboine Park Conservancy .

"Cubs of this age need to stay with their mothers for at least one winter, or through freeze up of the western Hudson Bay, to learn how to hunt and for protection from other bears. Wildlife experts agree cubs this young are not able to survive on their own."

The cub, which weighs just 39 kilograms (85 pounds), is the lightest orphan the centre has received to date. A normal weight is about 45 kilograms.

"I think it's probably indicative of the really poor year," said Stephen Peterson, the head of conservation and research at Assiniboine Park Conservancy.

"This year we had warm weather and south winds and that ice just has really been delayed in forming. It's just starting to form now and it's one of the latest years we've seen in a long time."

Peterson said they are watching to see if there are other skinny cubs not connecting with their moms, but, so far, it appears to be an isolated incident. 

"This time of year those bears will be out on ice — they will be light but we don't really think of them as being really at risk," he said. "It's just part of the cycle they are used to until we get years where that delay makes them on shore longer and they aren't able to get food."

After the bear's quarantine, Peterson said he will become an ambassador to the north and join the rest of its furry comrades. At that time, they will also start looking at a naming process.  

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