By Stuart Tomlinson
THEY’RE CUTE and often look cuddly, but capturing and keeping a baby bear, deer, bird or other wild creature usually ends badly for the animal — and sometimes for the people involved.
Take the case of 28-year-old Gabriel Maranov, 28, of Wolf Creek and an itinerant Black Bear cub. Maranov faces as long as a year in jail and a $6,250 fine for capturing and keeping the cub for two weeks on his parents’ rural property in southern Oregon.
He was trying to do the right thing but went about it in the wrong way.The situation illustrates a common problem in Oregon each year and one that officials are trying hard to educate the public about.
“It’s the No. 1 phone call this time of year,” says Karen Munday of the Audubon Society of Portland. “People find healthy young birds and mammals and mistakenly think they need help.”
As well-intentioned as people’s motives may be, the end result is an animal, Munday said, “that will never be free.”
Maranov’s situation began to come to light about a month ago. According to Oregon State Police officials, that’s when a man called Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials to report that a bear cub had wandered into his yard. Officials told the man to try to protect it from neighborhood dogs; they would send someone to get it the next day.
The man turned a garbage can on its side as a shelter and surrounded it with orange construction fencing. The next morning, the fence had been knocked down and the bear–which had a wound on its back–wasgone.
In the meantime, said Lt. Dave Gifford of the Oregon State Police, Maranov had made several inquires to fish and wildlife officials, asking how to care for a bear and how he could get a wildlife rehabilitation permit.
Gifford said wildlife officials and troopers put two and two together and contacted Maranov, who lives with his mom and dad north of Grants Pass.
Cub’s Wounds Infected
Maranov said he first saw the bear at a scrap yard where he had taken his truck for repairs. The cub was clearly dying, he said, from infected wounds.
“It just needed love–I was stepping up so the bear could live,” Maranov said. “I did everything I could to do the right thing; I was going to make sure he was OK.”
Maranov said he spent the next two weeks, night and day, nursing the bear back to health, feeding it baby food and caring for its wounds. He named it Bearly, he said, “because he was barely a bear.”
He hoped to send the bear to a rehab center in Idaho, but there were many hurdles to overcome. And the dozen or so calls he made to officials made it easy for troopers to find him. The bear would have been put down if I didn’t save it, Maranov said.
But Michelle Dennehy, a wildlife department spokeswoman, said that’s just one of the mistakes people make.
“If we can get to it immediately, it’s turned over to a rehabilitator who can care for the animal without imprinting it,” she said. Imprinted animals lose their fear of people and often must be euthanized to protect the public. Dennehy said that several years ago near Sisters, an unlawfully kept buck attacked a man.
Under state law, it is illegal to keep wildlife captive without a permit.
“Our goal is to always get the animal back into the wild,” Dennehy said.
Oregon has 92 licensed wildlife rehabilitators: people who have the training and equipment to keep wildlife from becoming habituated to people.
Spring is the time of year wildlife give birth, and it’s common for animals to temporarily leave their offspring as they go off to feed elsewhere. Some are abandoned because of disease. Messing with a bear’s cub is also a quick way to get attacked by the mother if she is nearby.
Considering all that’s happened, the cub is doing OK.
On May 9, he was turned over to keepers at Wildlife Safari, a nonprofit wildlife park in Winston. Curator Dan Brands said he’s been taught to nurse from a bottle and is getting treatment for a skin rash.
“He is doing great — very active and he loves to climb,” Brands said.
Officials at the wildlife park will sponsor a contest to rename Bearly, who will remain isolated from other bears at the park for at least a year–though he will be able to see them through a fence. Brands said part of the naming contest will include an awareness program telling visitors why it’s important that animals in the wild are left there.
For now, they’re just calling him “baby bear.” –The Oregonian