Dr. Sonnya: A modern tale of three bears

Early in January, Twin Harbors Wildlife Center received a male black bear cub from the Quinault Indian Nation.

Twin Harbors Wildlife Center (THWC) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit in Montesano that was established to treat, rehabilitate and release wild animals that are injured in the Grays Harbor and Pacific County areas. I am a one of the co-directors of the organization, along with Dr. Corrie Hines.

We are not permitted yet to rehabilitate large carnivores, but as veterinarians we are allowed to triage wildlife for 48 hours or until arrangements are in place to transport to a permitted facility. Over the next two years, we will build facilities and train volunteers so that we can get the permitting necessary to take in all wild animals.

In the meantime, we find a solution for any wild animal brought to us, even if that means transporting them to a facility better equipped or better staffed to care for them.

Early in January, we received a male black bear cub from the Quinault Indian Nation. The orphan cub was thin and parasitized. We stabilized him as arrangements were made to transport him to a facility that was equipped and permitted for bears. Unfortunately, all the facilities in Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho were full.

In the meantime, a second similar-sized cub was spotted wandering a few miles from where this one was found. After several days, he too was also captured and brought to THWC.

If a facility wasn’t found, both cubs would have had to be euthanized. Everyone involved was scrambling to find a placement for them. After petitioning, the Idaho Black Bear Rehab (IBBR) was granted an exception from Idaho Fish and Game to take the cubs. Our volunteers transported them to a halfway point and met up with volunteers from IBBR in Garden City, Idaho.

Several weeks earlier, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Region 6 had received reports of an orphaned bear cub in the Pacific Beach area. This cub traveled about 10 miles to Taholah in search of food before WDFW conflict specialists and Quinault Indian Nation Natural Resource Officers captured her. She weighed in at 28 pounds and was in good condition overall. She was taken to IBBR and named Quin.

When the male cubs arrived at IBBR, it became obvious that Quin was their sister. She was immediately protective of them, and they followed her around the facility. Quin had not been adjusting well to her stay at IBBR, but as soon as her brothers arrived, she settled down and began to thrive. The boys, however, were much thinner than her, having been out foraging and orphaned for weeks longer.

The boys have been named Chompers and Chitwin. (Chitwin means “black bear” in the Salish Quinault language.) Once the triplets are ready to live on their own, they’ll be returned to the Olympic Peninsula.

You can follow their story on Idaho Black Bear Rehab’s Facebook page.

Sonnya Crawford, DVM, is a veterinarian at Grays Harbor Veterinary Services in Montesano. Her pets include two cats, numerous parrots, a giant bunny and saltwater fish. Her special interests are in avian medicine, veterinary dermatology and dentistry. Reach her at drsonnya@gmail.com.