At Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, we have less than 100 animals that call us their forever home. We focus mainly on the big exotic cats such as lions, tigers and their hybrids but we also have native cat species like cougars and bobcats. TCWR also rescues bears. We have 9 bears at our facility. We have 7 black bears, 1 Russian Brown Bear, and 1 Grizzly bear. World Bear Day was March 23, 2023. We are celebrating bears by talking about one bear in particular at TCWR and his name is Michael.
Michael was privately owned in Indiana. To prevent from being more “dangerous,” his owners decided to declaw him. Declawing of any animal can be very painful, as most of the animals walk on their tiptoes. When declawed they don’t get the chance to walk on the tip toes so they become more flat footed and they have the chance to get arthritis when older. Michael does get medication daily to manage his pain and arthritis.
Michael is a black bear. Black bears can be found in the wild in Arkansas. They are the smallest North American bear. Black bears were hunted for their fat. It was used to make soap, candles, hair products, insect repellent, and oil lamps. When you come across a black bear in the wild, remain calm, make yourself known with noises, do not wander off, stay in groups, back away slowly, don’t make eye contact, and give the bear space. If the bear stands on its hind legs, make yourself look bigger as you backing away from them. Do not climb a tree when you see a black bear as they will climb up a tree after you. These animals can outrun you so you do not want to run from them.
When you visit TCWR, you might get the opportunity to see Michael. Michael lives in our discovery area down our bear tunnel. He lives in an enclosure by himself. Starting in the springtime, we scatter-feed our bears so they are able to get the chance to scavenge like bears in the wild. They will get different treats spread around their grassy areas such as apples, oranges, lettuce, and many other fruits and vegetables. If our bears have the opportunity to be rehabilitated out in the wild, we will try to do that. We only rehabilitate animals if they came directly out of the wild. Unfortunately, most of our animals were kept as pets since they were young, so they do not have the ability to be able to survive on their own in the wild.
You can help these bears in the wild by respecting the wildlife and not feeding the wildlife. If you camp out, be sure to keep your food in a bear proof container. If you see bear poop in the wild maybe turn back and go in a different direction or be extremely cautious of your surroundings.