Three orphaned bear cubs readied for new home in Mexico

Posted: Monday, September 17, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Three orphaned grizzly bear cubs in a couple of weeks will depart their home at the Alaska Zoo to delight zoo goers in Mexico.

The cubs have been a popular attraction at the zoo in Anchorage, but there just isn't enough room for them.

''The extra care is really time-consuming,'' said curator Pat Lampi said. ''And they'll be going to a good place, so they'll have a lot more room to play.''

The bears, along with their mother, became a regular sight in May around Hoonah, on Chichagof Island. When the mama bear disappeared, a suspected victim of poachers, locals rounded up the cubs.

They came to Anchorage by jet and have been in the zoo since the end of June. Zoo officials estimate they are now about 9 months old. They've each grown from 20 to about 90 pounds since their arrival, Lampi said.

''They're just so cute and animated and playful when they're that age,'' Lampi said. ''People end up spending an hour when they stop to watch them.''

As a sendoff, and an excuse to teach zoo visitors about bears, the Alaska Zoo will host Bear Day on Sept. 29. The bash will include folk music, animal sketching lessons and presentations about bear migration in the Anchorage Bowl.

''The triplets have been a really popular thing, and we thought we'd give people a chance to say goodbye to them before they take off,'' said Tex Edwards, zoo spokesman.

The cubs should ship out in early October for Mexico. The zoo there is in the mountains near Guadalajara, at about 7,000 feet, where the temperature ranges between 45 and 75 degrees.

Meanwhile, the zoo is left with a handful of other orphans with uncertain futures. No one is sure yet what will become of Nelson the musk ox. Seven moose calves will likely eventually go to the Moose Research Center on the Kenai Peninsula, Edwards said.

Chinitna, a grizzly cub who arrived in June, will probably leave the zoo, Edwards said. A couple of out-of-state zoos have expressed interest in her.

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