Rehabilitation and release: keeping bears wild

A rehabilitated bear cub is released into a suitable area

A rehabilitated bear cub is released into a suitable area

Euthanasia or a life in captivity are no longer the inevitable fates for bear cubs orphaned by accidents, abandonment, hunting or poaching. We now have the expertise and experience to return cubs to the wild.

WSPA is promoting programmes that reintroduce orphaned cubs to their natural habitat, by:

  • Educating professionals and building a specialist rehabilitation and release network.
  • Creating resources, including an international report on rehabilitation methods and training DVD.
  • Convincing authorities and the public that orphaned cubs can be returned to the wild.

Learning from experience


One of the release projects WSPA works with is the Idaho Black Bear Rehabilitation Centre (IBBR); this footage shows the area where orphaned cubs learn life skills and prepare for a life in the wild. Since 1997, we have provided funding and a truck to transport bears and helped construct a purpose-built facility for the young bears.

This collaboration has contributed to our expertise – the dedicated IBBR team has successfully rehabilitated and released over 100 bear cubs. 21 were released into suitable wild sites in July 2008 alone.

Rehabilitation: first steps

‘Rehabilitation’ means enabling the cubs to gain the life skills they would have learned from a parent in the wild.

On arrival at IBBR, a cub will be and treated for any injuries or illness. Once weaned, it will gradually be introduced to solid foods and prepared for life in the wild. The sanctuary has several man-made dens, tree trunks and a swim tub to explore, mirroring the wild environment.

Life in the wild

A rehabilitated bear faces the same survival risks as any other, including the threat of hunting and loss of habitat through environmental conditions and human encroachment.

Having given the orphaned cubs a chance at life in the wild, WSPA works to safeguard their future – and that of many other animals – by researching and promoting ways for humans to live alongside animals without conflict.

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