Two New Jersey black bear cubs were rescued after the mother was killed in a bizarre hunting accident.
A man was deer hunting in Allamuchy State Park, New Jersey during the permit shotgun season last week when a bizarre chain of events occurred. Walter Michalski stepped over a downed tree and landed on a sow and four bear cubs. The startled and semi-hibernating female bear bit Michalski’s boot, puncturing the hunter’s foot.
“It appears he tried to get away, but the bear wouldn’t let go,” stated Bob Considine of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). “He fired two shots and the bear let go.”
Michalski was using a Remington 20-gauge shotgun. Conservation officers tracked the severely wounded bear and ultimately had to euthanize the animal. The officers also located the den (a depression under the roots of a blown-down tree), which is a common den site for bears.
Two of the four black bear cubs were killed when the mother rolled over them during the struggle. The remaining two bear cubs were brought to the Woodland Wildlife Refuge in Hunterdon County. The executive director of the refuge, Tracy Leaver, estimates the two bear cubs are about a week old.
The refuge will care for the bear cubs for a month or so, and then work with the Black Bear Unit of the Division of Fish and Wildlife to introduce them to another mother bear with similar-aged cubs. In the wild, female bears can and do adopt orphaned cubs. Leaver remarked,
Bears can’t count. We’ve done it before. We are cautiously optimistic.
The refuge is accepting donations for the care of the bear cubs, which have been temporarily named Mike and Ike, at its website.
Generally, female bears in New Jersey will give birth to a litter of cubs every two years in January to February. The mother will care for the bear cubs through the following winter, but the cubs will become independent during their second summer.
The DEP stated that no charges are being filed against the hunter, and that the incident is not being considered a bear attack.