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Fish and Game assessing health of confiscated bear cub

Posted: 5:19 PM, Oct 22, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-23 15:19:27-04

BOISE, IDAHO — Charles Erickson was coming home from a hunting trip when he saw something in the snow.

As he got closer Erickson realized what he was looking at was a black bear cub that appeared to be sick.

"So we got out, and there was no tracks, there was no sign of another animal," said Erickson. "And I waited for fifteen or twenty minutes before I tried to catch it. I noticed that it's gums were pure white, it's tongue was pure white, so I knew it was obviously dehydrated. And it couldn't run from me, and it couldn't walk."

So he made a decision. He decided to take the bear out of the wild to his Boise home, hoping to find someone who would be willing and able to rehabilitate it.

He says he contacted Zoo Boise, who contacted Fish and Game.

Conservation officers then contacted Erickson and confiscated the bear.

"I said goodbye to the bear, I pet him, I loved on him and told him I was sorry. I picked him up and I gave him to them."

Fish and Game's regional conservation educator Evin Oneale says as hard as it may sound, even if you think an animal might die in the wild, the best thing to do is to leave it where it is.

"The best advice we can give is to leave it where you find it," said Oneale. "That might be a little harsh for some folks, but it's better for nature to take its course in those situations."

Oneale says trying to care for a wild animal like this is not a good idea.

But Erickson says he had no intention of keeping the bear.

"I didn't kill it without a tag," said Erickson. "I didn't neglect it, I didn't torture it, I didn't abuse it. I nursed it back to health. And I was going to give it to a place that would make it live and survive and have a quality of life."

In this case as in most cases like this, what Erickson viewed as the right thing morally, saving what appeared to be a dying orphaned animal, is the wrong thing to do legally.

"It is against the law to pick up a wild animal and take it home," said Oneale. "But it's also a bad idea, because when people do that, they're... most of us are out of our wheelhouse."

Fish and Game says officers use their own discretion when deciding whether to cite someone for taking an animal from the wild, and in this case they chose not to cite Erickson.

The State Veterinarian is treating the cub. Fish and Game says the black bear cub is a good candidate for rehabilitation and will reside with a licensed rehabilitator in central Idaho. It will be released back into the wild next spring.

The young male cub will have a buddy and will share a paddock with another cub of similar age.