It's not uncommon for folks in Lake Tahoe to see bears and their cubs snooping around or checking out trash dumpsters looking for food. However, an orphaned 8-month-old bear raised concerns when people noticed how underweight he was and his poor skin condition. California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists took the bear, named Nixon, to their office for an exam, but reached out to the Oakland Zoo's Veterinary Hospital for additional assistance.
The marketing coordinator for the Oakland Zoo, Isabella Linares, told the Press Democrat, "He is considered underweight. A male yearling would be 50-plus pounds."
According to the outlet, Nixon has had an x-ray, dermatology assessment, dental exam, bloodwork, and ultrasound since he got to the zoo. The skin condition, which the BEAR League determined was an infection, caused the young bear to suffer from hair loss. On top of that, zoo officials said, the cub suffered from pneumonia and an infected bone in his left foot. Nixon is receiving a host of antibiotics, anti-fungal meds, and receiving baths to help his skin. When the baths are over, the zoo uses heat lamps to keep him warm since he doesn't have fur.
Currently, his dietary needs are being met by a "bear chow" crafted by the zoo's veterinarians to help him gain weight. The zoo says they are focused on getting the bear cub healthy again but are uncertain of his future once they reach that goal. Marketing coordinator Erin Dogan said, "It's really touch-and-go because he's so sick. He won't be able to be released into the wild because he didn't learn the survival skills from his mother, so he'll be in captivity."
Dogan said the zoo is already home to a black bear and her cubs; therefore, "we don't have the space right now for another bear, but it is possible that he stays at Oakland Zoo. But (Nixon will) definitely live in captivity, and we would help with finding him a home with the Department of Fish and Wildlife — if it doesn't end up being at Oakland Zoo."
Even though the young bear is in rough shape, the zoo says he seems to be in good spirits.
"We're really hopeful that he's tough, and clearly, he's tough if he's made it this far!" Dogan said. "He seems like he knows that he's being helped."
READ MORE: Black Bear Lifespan in North America
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