Two orphaned black bear cubs made it safely from Whitehorse to their new home at the Calgary Zoo.
The siblings took off on the Friday afternoon Air North flight.
They travelled in what Environment Minister Currie Dixon describes as something akin to a dog kennel “souped up to make sure they don’t stick their claws through.”
The male and female cubs, that now weigh 60 and 40 pounds respectively, spent the trip munching on apple slices inside their kennels.
The pair were orphaned back in July when conservation officers were forced to kill their mother.
The sow had begun eating out of garbage cans, and returned to residential neighbourhoods even after officials tried to relocate the family.
The cubs have been living at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve since their mother died.
Dixon said the two bears, who are about six or seven months old, have become very attached to each other.
Local staff took extra steps to make sure they would be comfortable travelling in separate kennels.
“They put the cages in the room with them for a while so they get used to the cages,” Dixon said Friday before the plane took off.
“Then they let them sleep in separate cages over the last couple of nights just to sort of get used to being separate.”
Finding a home for baby bears can be a challenge, Dixon said, but in this case the stars aligned.
The Calgary Zoo was looking for a companion for its lone, white-furred black bear, Manuka.
“Bears are social to a certain extent and they wanted to find some companionship for that bear,” Dixon said.
“It worked out really well. We had two bears looking for a home and they had a single bear looking for some friends.”
Calgary Zoo spokesperson Trish Exton-Parder said the cubs appear to be doing well and getting used to their new home. They are playing and eating well.
“Our vets are going to be doing some initial examinations over the next few weeks,” she said. The Yukon cubs won’t be introduced to their local companion until vets give them a clean bill of health.
The Calgary Zoo has said the three will be able to educate visitors about the dangers of bears becoming habituated to humans.
Dixon took the opportunity to remind Yukoners to take responsibility for their garbage.
“We live in an area that has a lot of bears. While they will come into town, if there isn’t anything here for them to eat, then they will just move on, no harm no foul,” he said.
“But when they get into the garbage, and they become dependant on it, we have no choice but to deal with them. Although it’s a happy one, it’s a cautionary tale.”
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