Black bears back home at wildlife refuge

A black bear relaxes in its enclosure at Adirondack Wildlife Refuge in Wilmington last summer. (Provided photo — Suzanne Moore, Press-Republican)

SARANAC LAKE — Both bears that strayed from the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge & Rehabilitation Center in Wilmington are now back at the facility.

In a Facebook post, Refuge co-owner Steve Hall wrote, “Our two prodigal bears are temporarily in the bear rehab enclosures while we update their main enclosures to make sure this never happens again.”

The two black, female bears, Luvey and Ahote, escaped from their enclosure two weeks ago and had been wandering around the woods surrounding the refuge. In a phone interview Sunday, Hall said he thinks the bears climbed out of their enclosures in the middle of the night.

“We only realized it when we got up to feed them the next morning,” he said.

Luvey, the one who happens to be brown in color despite its species’ name, was spotted in the woods near Whiteface Mountain Friday. Hall found the bear and enticed her with apples. A former refuge employee showed up with pineapples, nuts and other bear treats. The two then walked the 3 miles back to the refuge, and Luvey followed.

Videos from their hike back can be found on the refuge’s Facebook page.

Ahote, the bigger of the two bears, was located near the Quaker Hill neighborhood less than a mile away from the refugee Saturday. On Sunday, a similar story to Luve’s happened, and Ahote followed two refuge employees through the woods back to the facility.

Hall said everybody at the refuge was greatly relieved to have the bears back.

“It’s important for two reasons,” he said. “Firstly, they’re great, nice animals. And secondly, they are a tremendous asset to the work we do at the refuge.”

Luvey and Ahote are ambassador bears, meaning they stay at the refuge full time, unlike other bears that get rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Hall said their purpose is to educate visitors on the issues facing wildlife today.

“We’re not a zoo,” he said. “We invite people in so they hopefully learn something and donations toward our rehabilitation work.”

There is no base pay to visit the refuge. Guests are asked to donate whatever they think is appropriate.

Hall said he’s seeing more and more parasitic diseases from ticks, fleas and tapeworms in bears these days.

“We’re suffering from huge outbreaks of common parasites,” he said. “There’s nothing new about mange, but the volume is what concerns us. I don’t remember the last time we had a black bear that wasn’t suffering from some kind of mange problem.”

Mange is a skin disease caused by parasitic mites similar to scabies.

Hall said he thinks people should be more aware of how human actions’ effect on animals.

“People I see on TV who deny climate change always tend to steer very far away from the wildlife,” he said.

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