By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor
A hungry 14-month-old black bear cub is being nursed back to health after he was found curled up next to a partially enclosed hot tub outside a North Creek ski house.
“He’s doing fine and is scheduled to be released in May,” said Steve Hall of Adirondack Wildlife Refuge in Wilmington, where the bear cub is regaining its strength.
Wildlife rehabilitators said they believe the cub’s mother was killed last autumn.
Housekeeper Tammyjo Phillips, found the cub on Feb. 27. She was cleaning Marta Kolman’s vacation home off Pleasant Valley Road after renters had been there for President’s Week.
“I always go out to check the hot tub and to put the cover back on when I saw what I thought was a cat curled up on a bag of pellets in the corner,” Mrs. Phillips told The Chronicle.
“I looked over again and it was a little bear cub. The partially enclosed shed was protecting him from the wind. They think he had come out of hibernation and was looking for food.”
Mrs. Phillips said she immediately “started looking for his mother. ‘Where is Mama,’ I wondered. The poor thing starving to death and was dehydrated.”
She said she quickly went inside, called her husband Dan, and then called the Department of Environmental Conservation.
DEC sent North Country Wild Care volunteers Trish Marki and Cara Huffman.
Ms. Marki, wearing welding gloves, put a blanket over the cub while Mrs. Phillips said, “I stood outside with pepper spray in case the mother came running.”
The bear was taken to Schroon River Animal Hospital in Warrensburg, where Ms. Huffman and Dr. Brian Landenberger established an intravenous line and took some measurements.
“He weighed 22 pounds and we sent a photo of his teeth to the pathology lab, and they confirmed he was a second-year cub,” Ms. Marki said. “He should have been 45 to 50 pounds, at least 35 pounds when he came out of hibernation.
“We figure with the warm days of President’s Week, he came out of hibernation looking for food and happened to find the hot tub that the folks staying at the house had been using. He was probably snuggling up to the hot tub for heat.”
The cub stayed at North Country Wild Care for a week as volunteers rehydrated him and slowly started feeding him.
“We started with a slurry, which is a vegetarian-based dog food mixed with water,” Ms. Marki said. “Then we slowly started him on solid foods, like strawberries, blackberries and blueberries, things that he would eat in the wild.
“He was on the IV for several days, and he did not like sweet potatoes or carrots. I even tried dipping them in honey, but he wasn’t having it.”
Mrs. Phillips said, “I’m so happy he’s been in such good hands. This stuff just doesn’t happen. We back up to Gore Mountain, so there are a lot of bears around here. I saw one last fall cross the road at dusk.”
“I’m happy they are going to release him where they found him,” she said. “This is home for him.”
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