In what is being described as an unusual event, state Fish and Game officials rescued a black bear cub Friday that had been found orphaned at the top of the Cuesta Grade.
The cub will be taken to a specialized care facility and will be released back into the wild next spring.
Fish and Game wildlife biologist Bob Stafford said the cub was first spotted Thursday in the Highway 101 corridor near Tassajara Creek Road. Large wildlife frequently use the top of the Cuesta Grade as a highway crossing point.
A game warden responded and removed the cub from the roadway and released it. Stafford said he hoped the cub would reunite with its mother overnight.
However, the next morning the little bear was found in a pear tree on a nearby property where it had evidently spent the night. Stafford captured the cub and placed it in a dog carrier.
“It was obviously orphaned,” he said.
Stafford weighed the cub and was surprised to find it only weighed 15 pounds, small for a 7-month-old cub. Stafford examined the animal and found that it has an eye infection.
The bear is being transported to Sacramento, where it will be treated by state veterinarians. Eventually, it will be taken to a specialized wildlife care facility at Lake Tahoe where it will be kept until spring.
“You have to treat a bear cub a lot differently than other animals because you don’t want them to become habituated to humans,” Stafford said.
Bear cubs are born in February and spend the first year of their lives with their mother. After hibernating with the mother for the first winter, a cub is then on its own.
At the Lake Tahoe facility, the bear will be allowed to hibernate for the winter. In the spring, it will be returned to San Luis Obispo County and returned to the wild.
This event was unusual because most bears reported as orphaned are found in the spring when juveniles have just separated from their mothers. This bear was not like most orphaned bears, and would not have survived if not rescued.
“This bear is very small,” Stafford said. “I could pick it up and handle it. If I tried to pick up a juvenile, it would tear me apart.”