WILLIAMS, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – A bear cub rescued in southern Arizona is leaving wildlife officials stumped about its size and how it got there.
Last week, a black bear cub, now named Buddy, was found in a Tucson neighborhood and placed at the Bearizona Wildlife Park in Williams. But wildlife officials are still putting together the pieces on where Buddy came from before being saved and how he survived in the wild.
What makes Buddy’s case even more intriguing is his size. “The first thing in my brain is, it’s December and bear cubs shouldn’t be here right now,” said Dave O’Connell, chief operating officer of Bearizona. “It was strange because that would have meant he was born in August, September, which is just unheard of for a bear.”
O’Connell says bear cubs in the United States are typically born from January to February and should weigh around 70 pounds by the end of the year. However, Buddy, who weighs 15 pounds, is the size of a 4 to 5-month-old bear. “The math doesn’t work,” said Arizona Game and Fish Department spokesman Mark Hart.
But his abnormally tiny size reminded Bearizona employees of an elf from a very popular Christmas movie, and they named him Buddy. “Everyone loves that movie, so let’s name him Buddy!” said a staff member at Bearizona, according to a written news release.
It isn’t just Buddy’s tiny size that has wildlife officials questioning where this cute cub came from. Another part of Buddy’s story is how the cub made his way off the Catalina Mountains, just north and northeast of Tucson, if orphaned or abandoned. “If it got separated from its mother, regardless of why in the backcountry, how did a bear that small get all of the way off the mountain?” said Hart. “We would have thought that a bear that size would have been picked off by a predator, a coyote, a mountain lion, or even another bear.”
Another part of the mystery is how Buddy is so comfortable around humans and is not afraid of them, like other wildlife may be. “We will never know the whole story, but if someone illegally fed this cub for months, it could explain his comfort around humans. It might also explain why he is so small,” said O’Connell.
Bearizona officials said Buddy was not euthanized due to his comfort with humans. Although his origin story may remain a mystery, he now has a new home in the high country. The public can look forward to meeting Buddy at Bearizona starting on Dec. 22.
“We’ve been getting phone calls for like a week and a half now, ‘is the bear there yet? I heard you guys got him,’” O’Connell said. “So to finally get him out where people can see about him and learn about his unique situation, it’s exciting.”
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