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Orphaned bear cubs in rehab at wildlife center

6:12 PM, Jun 8, 2012   |    comments
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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CA - The two bear cubs taken by Fish and Game wardens Thursday after reports that someone was trying to sell them were transferred to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care.

Tom Millham, who runs the facility in South Lake Tahoe with his wife Cheryl said the report from the veterinarian on their condition is very good.

RELATED STORY: Nevada Co. man caught trying to sell bear cubs at N. San Juan gas station

"One tick between the two of them, that was it," Millham said.

The two cubs, an 11 pound female and a 15 pound male, are settling in to their new surroundings and have already made friends with their new roommate, another bear cub brought to the facility from Humboldt County. He, too, is in good health.

Soon the three of them will be moved into a habitat where human contact will be very limited.

"Once we get 'em in here, they'll never see us again," Millham said.

That action is necessary to make sure they don't get used to humans, which would make it impossible to release them back to the wild.

The Millhams started Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care back in 1978 and are currently raising funds to expand to a new location. Their most famous patient was probably Lil' Smokey, a bear cub that had suffered burns in a fire.

"Nobody had ever taken care of a bear cub that all four paws had second and third degree burns," Millham said.

However, they were successful, Lil' Smokey, as well as all the other bear cubs they have taken in over the years, was successfully released.

By the time the two new cubs are ready to go, they'll weigh a lot more than they do now.

"Just before we release them, they're going to be between 70 and 100 pounds," Millham said. "Maybe over 100 pounds."

Meanwhile, the investigation continues into the incident that brought the cubs to the facility. Chris Puett of North San Juan said he shot the mother bear after feeling threatened and then was simply trying to save the cubs from perishing without her.

Fish and Game Wardens used bear sniffing dogs Thursday night in an attempt to find the mother, but were unsuccessful. Their investigation is on-going. While a formal complaint has been made against Puett, no charges have been filed.

By Jonathan Mumm, jmumm@news10.net

News10/KXTV

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