GARRISON - The bears quickly took to their new digs, although their stay here would be a short one. November wasn't far away.
It's been nearly two years ago to the day that the six bear cubs were transferred from their cramped pen to the Wild and Free Wildlife Rehabilitation Program's new, expansive layout in rural Garrison. They were released back into the wild early that November to get acclimated and find dens in which to hibernate for the winter.
This year's group of three orphaned bears has called the center home for most of this year. But again, November isn't far away.
It's time to think fat. And Wild and Free is asking for donations of apples or corn or dog food or acorns or anything else that might help plump up the cubs for their long winter sojourn.
"Friends in Minneapolis brought us a monster garbage bag full of acorns," said Jim Lease, a Wild and Free volunteer. "Bears love acorns."
"The urge is to eat and eat and eat to fatten up for winter," said Deb Eskadahl, founder and veterinarian at the rehabilitation center, who said the bears each weigh about 70 pounds now. "We would like them to be 90 (pounds by the time they're released). But it takes a lot of acorns to do that. They're going through a bushel-and-a-half a day total now. That's a lot of acorns.
"If you throw out acorns and apples, they go to the acorns first. Acorns are a more natural food for them."
But Eskadahl and Wild and Free will take whatever they can get.
"They don't have to be good apples. They can have worms or dents in them," Eskadahl said. "And some plums to vary their diet or corn that didn't get picked in time."
Eskadahl said those interested in donating food for the cubs may call the Garrison Animal Hospital at (320) 692-4180 or drop food off at the animal hospital from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Volunteers will even pick/pick up fruit.
"We make two to three trips a week to just pick up apples," Lease said. "We go all the way down to St. Cloud."
To donate or for more information, call the animal hospital at the aforementioned number or Wild and Free volunteer Bob Wrobel at (218) 764-2625 or Lease at (218) 764-2627 or go to www.wildandfree.org.
BRIAN S. PETERSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5864.
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