New Brunswick

Buddy the orphan bear cub heads back to wild this summer

Buddy, the starving orphan bear cub discovered in a Parker Ridge backyard in December, is closer to returning to the wild.

Hungry and no bigger than a raccoon when discovered, young bear has made progress, institute says

The bear cub was found in the backyard of a Parker Ridge family in December, hungry and with no mother or siblings in sight. (Atlantic Wildlife Institute)

Buddy, the starving orphan bear cub discovered in a Parker Ridge backyard in December, is closer to returning to the wild.

Buddy has gained weight and her infections are under control, said Pam Novak, director of the Atlantic Wildlife Institute near Sackville.

"She's probably weighing in between 30 and 40 pounds, which is good considering where she came from," Novak said.

"And she's appearing healthy, she's staying wild. She doesn't want anything to do with me, which is great. I love that."

The bear cub was spotted burrowing for rotten apples in Jeremy Hallihan's backyard in Parker Ridge, near Boiestown. She eventually made a den under the family's swimming pool deck.

Buddy was the size of a raccoon at the time, weighing just 15 pounds.

After being lured into a trap baited with peanut butter, the cub was sent to the Atlantic Wildlife Institute. 

Her small size was a concern, but she has made progress, Novak said.

"How she survived for that long without, probably, her mother — it stunted her growth, obviously she was starving — and how she pulled through is amazing to me," she said.

Buddy makes her way under the deck at Jeremy Hallihan's house in Parker Ridge, near Boisetown. (Submitted by Jeremy Hallihan)

"But so far she's doing well. She's more than doubled her body size already [in the] four or five months or so since we've had her, so she's over a year old."

Novak said her team at the institute has also gained control over the lungworm infection Buddy arrived with. If Buddy hadn't been brought in for treatment when she was, she wouldn't have made it to the end of the year, she said.

The institute continues to keep a close eye on the bear's health and hopes to return her to the wild by early summer.

"Fingers crossed she will continue to do well," Novak said. "I never let out that sigh of relief until I see that bum disappear into the woods.

"Anything can happen at this point since the system is trying hard to catch up and grow and get to where it needs to be. And so you just hope that internally she continues to function and do well which, so far, she is. So hopefully we'll have a good-ending story here in the next month or so."

With files from Shift and Elizabeth Fraser