“We ended up with a cub and it turned out to be a little girl so we hope it will be Little Bear’s new love,” said park manager Johnny Huntington, adding the female cub has been named Natalie.
Huntington said the park was hoping Little Bear, an orphaned male black bear cub brought to the park more than a year ago, would eventually get a partner but they never expected things to happen this fast.
“You always want them to stay in the wild but when it’s not possible this is the next best thing.”
Natalie remains in her own enclosure for the time being.
Little Bear is well known for his close bond with park employee Mike Timmons, who practically raised him. Timmons said Little Bear isn’t quite so little anymore.
“He’s growing and is happy, has never changed. He loves attention. I don’t think he realizes he’s a bear.”
Timmons says he’s thrilled Natalie will be joining Little Bear soon.
“He craves company. I think he’s lonely having no one with him.”
The two young bears even have something in common. They’re both orphans.
In May 2016, Little Bear was brought to the park after being found abandoned near Whycocomagh. He was dehydrated, severely underweight and suffering from pneumonia.
But little Natalie’s story is even more tragic.
Huntington said a couple months ago a female black bear was electrocuted after climbing a transmission pole in Inverness County. Natural Resources staff found her two-month-old pair of cubs hiding in nearby trees.
“One was brought here and one to Shubenacadie” Huntington said, adding the female cub Two Rivers received was quite malnourished.
“When we got her she was only six pounds.”
The immediate welfare of the orphaned Inverness County cubs was raised on Facebook by Inverness MLA Allan MacMaster, who voiced concerns over Nova Scotia being one of only two provinces in Canada that does not allow bears to be rescued and then reintroduced into the wild.
“As a result, naming the cub was easy,” Huntington said, noting award-winning Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster, a native of Inverness, is a cousin of the MLA.
Because of Natural Resources regulations, the only way the park could have kept Little Bear from being put down was to construct an 18,000 sq. ft. enclosure, complete with a pool, by the end of the year.
Not including labour, the cost of the completed enclosure was estimated to be $40,000, most of which has been raised through an outpouring of sympathy for Little Bear’s plight from the general public.
Huntington said if not for the public rallying to raise the funds for the enclosure for Little Bear, they wouldn’t have been able to save both animals.
“These are both two bears who were too young to survive on their own and had no place to go,” he said. “We were fortunate that we were building this second enclosure here.”
Meanwhile, the first phase of Little Bear’s new three-phase enclosure is complete.
“That includes a pool, logs to climb on and rocks,” said Huntington.
There will be a party at the park on Sunday to celebrate the rapidly growing young male bear’s move-in day, beginning at 11 a.m. with games and wagon rides for the kids. The move itself will be celebrated at 3 p.m.
Over the next while park officials will start introducing Little Bear and Natalie, with the help of the enclosure’s removable dividers. At first there will be an empty enclosure between them, then they will be moved side-by-side.
Eventually, they will be together in the same enclosure.
IF YOU GO
If you want to celebrate Little Bear’s move-in day to the first phase of his new enclosure on Sunday, July 16:
• 10 a.m. - Park opens.
• 11 a.m. – Lots of activities begin for the kids and continue throughout the day including a scavenger hunt, wagon rides, water balloon fights, etc. The canteen will be open.
• 3 p.m. - Little Bear will be introduced to his new enclosure.
• 8 p.m. - Robert Bouchard will perform until 10 p.m.
For more information on the park or to donate, visit their website https://www.tworiverspark.ca or phone the park at 902-727-2483.