Why is the Michigan DNR cuddling bear cubs? It's all about research
GRAND RAPIDS — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources handles a wide variety of jobs, from maintaining parks to overseeing hunting licenses to cuddling bear cubs.
In a series of tweets earlier this month, the DNR discussed rehousing abandoned bear cubs, particularly during the hard winter months.
It starts with researchers going into the forest and looking for sows, or female bears, that have been deemed motherly. The sows have been fitted for GPS radio collars, which allows the DNR to track them. That comes in handy when the sows are in underground dens during the winter.
Once a sow has been found, the team will sedate the bear and perform an exam. The exam includes drawing blood, weighing and measuring the animal, plus fitting it for a new collar.
But the exam can take up to an hour, and sometimes the sows have young cubs who haven't gained enough fat or fur to stay warm without their mother’s help. That’s where the cuddling comes in.
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The cubs are placed inside the jackets of what the DNR calls “limited-term professional bear cuddlers.” While the bears only weigh up to six pounds, the DNR said it can be difficult to hold them due to their large claws.
Once the exam is done, the bears are placed back in their den, where the mom sleeps off the rest of the sedative. The goal for the DNR the following year is to find the sow with the same number of cubs.
There's an additional step for orphaned cubs. According to the Twitter thread, sows sometimes push their cubs into trees to get them away from perceived danger. While the mother keeps an eye out, researchers will place an abandoned cub in the same tree, so it can collect a gel that makes it smell like the others.
Once the mother returns, she adopts the additional cub and the group continues on as a family.
This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Why is the Michigan DNR cuddling bear cubs? It's all about research