How the Michigan DNR gets orphaned cubs ‘adopted’ by mama bears

Michigan DNR bears
Posted at 9:30 AM, Mar 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-15 13:50:11-04

(WXYZ) — The Michigan DNR is on a mission to get orphaned cubs “adopted” by mama bears through their surrogate sow program.

In a recent Twitter thread, the DNR explained how the process works with unbearably adorable photos and videos.

They said there are a few adult female bears, which are called sows, in northern Michigan that are part of this program. The DNR tracks the sows, which already have cubs of their own, using a GPS radio collar.

Courtesy Michigan DNR

The collar helps them find the bears, wherever their winter den may be — even if it’s in the side of a hill, in a hollow tree, under tree roots or porches.

“Bears are very good at winter hide and seek,” the DNR writes.

When they do track down a sow, they sedate them to give the bear an examination while also collecting data for future research.

While this is all taking place, her cubs need to stay warm. So, DNR workers get the beary best job of cuddling up to the cubs, holding them inside jackets to keep them warm during their mama’s checkups.

Courtesy Michigan DNR

“You might imagine they smell like warm chocolate chip cookies. In reality it’s more like a wet musky dog,” the DNR writes.

After the checkup, the bears are placed back into the den.

Bears going back in winter den

Courtesy Michigan DNR

When there’s an orphan cub they want to be "adopted", the Michigan DNR says they take the cub to the location of the sow.

Courtesy Michigan DNR

They write that the mama bear will likely shoo her cubs up into a tree to protect them before running away in an attempt to lure danger away from the cubs.

That’s when the team sneaks in and sticks in the new addition. The tree is slathered with a scented gel, so once the mama bear comes back, the cubs will come down from the tree and all smell the same.

Bear up in the tree

Courtesy Michigan DNR

The DNR says the mama bear won’t really notice she has a new addition and care for them just the same as her own cubs.

Now that’s a bear of a process.

The DNR says Michiganders should treat bears with respect and observe them from a distance.