Orphaned Cubs Could Be Euthanized After Mother Killed by Poacher

A mother bear was fatally shot and "left to waste" by a poacher in Idaho last week, reported wildlife officials. Sadly, the three cubs she left behind will likely be euthanized.

Officers with Idaho Fish and Game are currently seeking further information about the illegal poaching incident.

In a public statement released on Friday, Idaho Fish and Game announced that a mother black bear had been fatally shot on September 8 on Priest Lake in North Idaho. According to the release, "rifle shots near the dumpsters in Hills Resort were heard by residents in the area" between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. that evening.

When officials arrived at the scene on September 9, they found the sow "had been shot several times and her body was left to waste." Her cubs were nowhere to be found.

"If they are located, they will likely have to be put down as they will likely not survive the winter months on their own," the statement read.

According to the Wildlife Center of Virginia's website, black bear cubs stay with their mothers for 17 months before becoming independent. Some studies suggest, however, that most cubs are self-sufficient by as young as five-and-a-half months old.

"Leaving a cub in the wild is a viable option for many cubs if they are old enough to survive alone and have adequate fat reserves," Jon Beecham of International Fund for Animal Welfare told the organization.

"American black bear cubs as young as five to seven months of age have survived...information from studying released bears suggests that survival rates are higher for older, larger cubs."

Idaho Fish and Game did not state the age of the cubs.

Though the bear had become a nuisance in the area—Fish and Game stated Friday that it had killed one dog and seriously injured another while protecting its cubs—officials were already working on trapping the bears. The poacher's decision to kill the bear was illegal.

"Although frustration with the bears among the local residents was entirely justified, the circumstances surrounding the poaching incident were dangerous for other citizens, and the use of artificial light and the waste of game are punishable wildlife crimes," officials said in the statement.

"It is not legal for citizens to take matters into their own hands in these circumstances; however, bears that are posing an immediate threat to a person or property may be killed in self-defense without a license or tag."

Individuals with information that could lead to charges are urged to contact Citizens Against Poaching.

Between 20,000 and 30,000 black bears inhabit the foothills and forests of Idaho, and that population is expected to increase by more than 15 percent over the next decade. This means that the amount of human-bear interactions is expected to increase as well, states Idaho Fish and Game on their website. As such, it is important for those living in bear country to take proper precautions to avoid attracting bears.

The government agency encourages all residents to keep trash in bear-resistant containers, keep pet food inside and avoid storing refrigerators or coolers on porches. Grills should always be clean and trash should not be left out overnight.

If a bear becomes a nuisance or a threat, Idahoans should call wildlife officials, who are specially trained to trap, remove and relocate bears.

black bear cubs
A black bear was recently killed by a poacher in Idaho. As a result, her orphaned cubs might be euthanized, according to wildlife officials. brentawp/iStock