|Children of the volunteers working on the bear release project open the cages containing the orphaned yearlings in the Book Cliffs of Utah. Many youth were allowed to help return the 14 black bears to the wild on June 2 during the largest bear release in the state's history.|
In the largest release in Utah history, 14 yearling black bears were released back into the wild in the southern Book Cliffs area of Utah.
The bears were released 45 miles northeast of Thompson Springs on June 2.
Hal Black, a Brigham Young University biology professor, organized the release.
With the help of several volunteers and associates, Black released the 14 yearlings in two separate locations about a mile apart.
The previous record for a bear release was four bears at one time in Hobble Creek near Springville.
The yearlings were all collared to track their progress and can be located with radio telemetry.
Josh Heward, a BYU graduate and associate of Black, aided in the bear release and is in charge of tracking the bears' progress during the upcoming months using the radio telemetry technology.
All 14 bears released were caught in Utah between June and November 2004 after being orphaned.
Eight of the 14 yearlings were caught in Carbon County. Four were from the Uintah Basin, one from Emery County and one from Moab.
The bears are guessed to have become orphaned either after their mothers abandoned them or were killed for harassing stock.
With the drought of last year, it is possible that the cubs were abandoned due to a lack of food.
|A yearling black bear runs for freedom after being released from a steel drum container. Last Thursday, 14 orphaned bears were released back into the wild in the Book Cliff area of southeastern Utah.|
After being caught in 2004, the bears were moved to the Black Bear Rehabilitation Center in Boise, Idaho, to prepare animals for living in the wild.
Cubs from locations across the western United States go to the rehabilitation center before being released back into the wild.
While at the rehabilitation center, the cubs lived off of fruit and dog food to help them gain extra weight.
The weight was hoped to give the yearlings a better chance for survival.
The center also avoided all human contact, keeping the bears as wild as possible.
Last Wednesday after almost a year of living at the center, the yearlings were tranquilized, loaded onto a trailer and prepared to make the trip back to Utah.
The cubs made the long trip inside of steel drum containers packed in weed-free hay.
After fighting heavy rains and slick dirt roads on Thursday morning, the bears arrived at their destination that afternoon
The animals were unloaded by Black along with a group of his associates and volunteers.
Each cage was weighed after being unloaded from the trailer and each weight was then recorded before they were released.
The bears' weights varied greatly from between 80 to 205 pounds.
After being weighed, the bears were released in pairs.Most of the yearlings immediately climbed nearby trees, while some of the animals stopped to nibble on the foliage after going more than a day without a meal.
Black decided the Book Cliff area would be perfect for the bears because of it being far from town and having no grazing sheep or cattle around.
The bears are not expected to be much of a nuisance to Castle Valley residents since there are only a few people in the area servicing local gas wells, according to the BYU professor.
Around 300 to 400 bears already live in the Book Cliffs area of Utah, which is the perfect habitat for bears. After the excess amounts of water this year, plants in the area are especially lush and should provide plenty of food for the cubs to survive off of. The bears, which are omnivorous, will be able to feed off weeds, grass, leaves and are even known to turn over rocks for ants.
The bears should not pose a risk to larger animals and will not risk hunting them due to the greater chances of being fatally injured in the process, but are known to kill calves or fawns on occasion if wandered upon.