October 1, 2003
This week provided an exciting moment for the 21 month old cubs and a select few people who were lucky enough to witness the events of October 1st.
First of all the cubs were much more active this week. We had beautiful summer weather this last week, some days about 22'C. The beautiful sunny days have added amazing red, orange, and yellow hues to the 22-acre habitat.
Cari and Boo have enjoyed searching for roots and creepy-crawly insects this week. There are plenty of fresh digs each morning we walk around the habitat. The weekly fish feed was enjoyed in the top part of the forest creek; Cari and Boo seem to enjoy digging in the creek bed for pieces of fish.
Dr. Ken Macquisten, the Managing Director and Veterinarian for the Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge, arrived to do a pre-hibernation veterinary assessment of the bears. The object was to ensure the bears enter hibernation in optimum shape. Of course, the best way to completely examine the bears was to tranquilize them. On September 30th, we got the cubs ready for the pre-hibernation exam the following day, by restricting their normal evening food supplements. Early in the morning of October 1st a few lucky souls got to help and join us for our exam of Cari and Boo.
Both cubs were sedated and once completely asleep Boo was given the once over first. Boo weighed 320 lbs, and was found to be in great condition. The extra layer of fat made it difficult to find a vein and take a blood sample from Boo, but our efforts were rewarded. Boo's pads were measured and all of his adult teeth are in. The physical examination proved Boo to be in excellent condition. Boo awoke from the sedative several minutes after the reversal drug was given, about 1 hour after the initial dosage.
Cari, the darker, more curious bear was harder to sedate despite getting the same dose of medication as Boo. Additional sedative was given so we could enter into the holding area and perform the pre-hibernation tests. Cari eventually went to sleep, however not to the complete unconscious state that Boo was in. This in turn provided for a more brief inspection. Cari weighed in at a whopping 335 lbs and was found to be an easier provider of blood. Cari's pads were measured as well and a small cut was found on his front left pad on the digit (P1), perhaps cut while digging on a sharp rock. It was about 1 week old and was starting to heal very well. Cari woke up from all of the sedatives about 3 hours after the initial dosage.
Both cubs proved to be in good condition and now I don't have to be worried about the cubs eating enough, apparently they have been! We should get the blood results back later this week.
The days following demonstrated the cubs were not adversely affected by the sedatives, having slept them off on inspection day!! The rest of the week the cubs were very active in the pool and play fighting. The logic was to play fight first and then head down to the pool for a refreshing soak!
With winter fast approaching, preparing Cari and Boo ready for the long sleep ahead had become an important agenda item in Kicking Horse Resort's general winter season plan.
Boo's CheckupCari and Boo have enjoyed a stimulating and productive summer. The berry crop in their habitat was outstanding, with numerous berry varieties ripening at different times. Their primary diet consisted of these berries, which was supplemented by other naturally occurring vegetation in the habitat. In addition, our wildlife ranger staff provided vegetables, fruits, dry kibble and fish which has enabled Cari and Boo to attain a good layer of fat to sustain them through the hibernation period.
Bears in hibernation do not eat, drink, urinate or defecate for as long as 5-6 months. They may lose as much as 30% of their pre-hibernation body weight while hibernating, depending on the length of the hibernation.
Cari and Boo's decision on when to hibernate will be made based on having attained adequate body weight, the presence of snow, and the cessation of their ability to find food (which normally is a function of ground snow cover).
In order to assess the bear's health and readiness for hibernation, a veterinary assessment was done October 1, 2003. Each bear was given a narcotic drug mixed in some honey which they then ingested. Boo, the calmer and less suspicious of the two bears, fell asleep within 20 minutes. Cari on the other hand, despite receiving the same drug dose as Boo, only became very sedate. Cari required further injections of immobilizing drugs via dart gun to allow us to handle him. Fortunately, the effects of the initial narcotic made him unaware of being darted.
Once each bear was immobilized, a full veterinary assessment was done. Each bear had an oral exam, heart and lungs evaluated, eyes checked, skin and hair coat evaluated, and measurements of nose to tail length and other body parts were taken. In addition, each bear had a blood sample drawn which has been sent to the Central Laboratory for Veterinarians in Langley, B.C. for evaluation. The blood will be checked to see if there is any indication of sickness or conditions that were not evident on the physical examination.
Both bears were determined to be in perfect physical condition on physical examination. The only abnormality found was a healing laceration on the base on one of Cari's front digits in the pad. I estimate the lesion to be approximately 2 weeks old and it is healing nicely on its own. The source of the laceration is unknown but could have come from play fighting with Boo or aggressive digging over sharp rocks.
The bears have accumulated a large amount of body fat, as was to be expected and desired. Boo weighed in at 320 lbs. (145.5kg) and Cari topped the scales at 335 lbs. (152kg), very large sizes for 21 month old bears. They are expected to continue to gain as much as 2 pounds body weight daily (approx. 1 kg/day) until the commencement of hibernation, which may be as early as the end of October or the end of November. Presently they are consuming approx. 15 lbs of food daily, a stage of eating called "hyperphagia".
A full assessment will depend on the pending blood results, but in my opinion Cari and Boo are in outstanding physical condition. Their considerable bulk evident at the young age of 21 months, indicates that they will ultimately be very large grizzlies when they are full grown males. It is not unreasonable to expect that they will attain their maximum genetic potential in terms of growth and may reach 800-900 lbs at 6-7 years of age.
It is our intent to monitor the hibernation via invisible infra-red lit cameras situated in their den, generously donated by Silent Witness. The images from these cameras will be beamed via real time to the internet for the veterinarian, wildlife rangers, and the public to view and monitor daily. Very few facilities in the world that manage captive bears allow the bears to experience a natural hibernation. Cari and Boo are given the opportunity, through the largest enclosed grizzly habitat in the world, and by the provision of comfortable, dry, and well insulated dens, to experience a bear's life to the fullest.
Ken Macquisten D.V.M.
Managing Director / Veterinarian
Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge