South Sonoma County animal shelter welcomes bear cubs

The organization is seeking help with food, money, construction and advocacy.|

Amid a summer of wildfire in Northern California, the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue has become the adopted home of three black bear cubs, and the shelter could soon welcome another, officials say.

The wildlife rescue, 403 Meacham Road, northwest of Petaluma, has for the past month quietly hosted a pair of cubs orphaned in Siskiyou County during the Caldor fire. It took possession of another last week, and has sought to limit human contact with the animals since, with the goal of letting the cubs grow and thrive in peace before a planned release next spring and summer.

But as the shelter braces to house four black bear cubs at the request of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Executive Director Doris Duncan has put out a call for community help to ensure the shelter can capitalize on plans to build a larger, apex predator enclosure for future efforts.

“Bear cubs arriving at the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue before the construction of this enclosure was not a reality that we had planned on,” Duncan said in a fundraising email sent Thursday. “However, these bears need our help. Today, we are reaching out to ask for your help with this effort.”

Plans for the first phase of the long-sought predator enclosure call for a 50-by-150-foot space, providing significantly more room than the current, temporary home of the bear cubs - a 50-by-25-foot pen surrounded by a chain-link fence. The organization has raised $90,000 toward the estimated $250,000 cost for the enclosure.

The current space, meant for bobcats or coyotes but still meeting minimum requirements for the bear cubs, occupies a secluded section of the wildlife rescue property, helping to give the bears plenty of space to acclimate to their new, temporary home.

Duncan said in a phone interview that the rescue, mindful of disturbing the cubs, which are about four to six months old, won’t commence building the larger enclosure until the animals are released next year.

“From the beginning, we have been very quiet about the bears’ presence at our rescue,” Duncan said in the email, referring to the bear siblings, a boy and girl, already housed at the rescue. “We’ve asked that volunteers completely avoid the area, and until today, we have not discussed their presence at the rescue with anyone outside of our own staff.”

With another bear likely coming to the shelter, though, Duncan said the rescue chose to break its silence to ensure the organization can fund expansion efforts and properly care for its animals.

“In the past month alone, it has become extremely clear how desperately this enclosure is needed. Destruction caused by California wildfires continue to present orphaned black bear cubs needing care at rehabilitation centers,” Duncan said in the release.

Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue is a nonprofit animal rescue and rehabilitation organization. Established in 1981, the $1.2 million annual operation also conducts educational outreach, makes charitable donations and participates in animal advocacy work.

In her email, Duncan said the rescue, one of three licensed in the state to care for wild cubs, is seeking help with food, money, construction and advocacy. For more information, or to donate, go to

"Rehabilitating black bear cubs is a great privilege and we are very honored that the department has entrusted us to do so,“ Duncan said in the release. ”When it comes to their futures back in the wild, we must be extremely careful in handling their care every single day that they are here.“

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