ASHLAND, Ore. — Oregon wildlife officials confirmed on Friday that they had to euthanize a young black bear after an unfortunate saga that saw him removed from his habitat east of Ashland.
According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, wildlife officers from Oregon State Police were notified on Wednesday of a young black bear seen in the Greensprings area off Highway 66. While officers did respond, they found no sign of the bear. OSP got in contact with the person who reported the sighting, and learned that they had picked up the bear.
"Upon contacting the individual, ODFW explained the department’s policy. Young wildlife found alone are not necessarily be orphaned and should not be removed from the wild or held (it is against the law)," the agency said. "ODFW directed the reporting party to either return the bear back to the location it was found, or allow ODFW to collect the bear."
At the end of that conversation, ODFW said that its biologists were under the impression that the bear would be returned to where it was found. But later that day, a local wildlife rehabilitator notified the agency that the bear was going to be dropped off at their facility.
ODFW said that the agency learned the next day that the bear was not dropped off, and instead might be going to an out-of-state facility. In a statement, that facility identified itself as Lions Tigers & Bears in San Diego, California.
At that juncture, OSP and ODFW visited the would-be rescuer's home to collect the bear. According to the agency, it was a yearling bear being held in a dog carrier, and it appeared to be both habituated — tame and with no fear of people — and in poor health.
"It’s not clear how the animal came to be so habituated but being held for a day may have contributed. It’s also possible the animal was being fed by people at another location before being picked up," ODFW said.
The agency said that it can often place bear cubs in proper facilities, but they are generally under a year old. With older wild bears, it is not considered humane to place them in captivity. Habituated bears are also not good candidates for any of these facilities, ODFW said.
Ultimately, after consulting with the state's wildlife veterinarian, ODFW decided to euthanize the bear — a decision that upset the California facility, which said that it had been arranging to go pick up the animal.
If you are ever concerned about an animal in distress, it's best to call ODFW, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, or OSP if it's an emergency or after hours. Spring is a particularly busy time for calls like this, with people picking up bear cubs, deer fawn, elk calf, young rabbits, fledgling birds learning to fly, or other young animals.
"No one should assume any young animal is orphaned just because it’s alone — nor should they ever pick it up," said ODFW spokesperson Michelle Dennehy. "It’s natural for mother animals to leave their young alone for extended periods of time while they go off to feed. The mother will return when it’s safe to do so (when people and pets aren’t around)."