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Wisconsin woman rescues drowning bear cub on May Alaska trip

An Eleva woman on a recent trip to Alaska helped assist in the rescue of a struggling black bear cub in the water, after it had been separated from its mother.
Updated: May. 23, 2021 at 9:36 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -Moose, otters and bears, oh my! It’s springtime in Alaska and wildlife offspring are starting to emerge, followed by an uptick in orphaned newborns.

“A lot of times mom will actually stash her cubs or calves or newborns in a spot where she feels that it’s safe and she’ll go off to feed,” explains biologist Cory Standorf, of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Wildlife is what Melisa Rongstad and her husband were hoping to see on their May trip to The Last Frontier, but they didn’t know how close they would get.

The Eleva couple was on a sightseeing boat in Prince William Sound when Melisa says her tour guide spotted wildlife in the water.

“I got the binoculars and it was a bear with a cub on its back,” explains Rongstad.

She says the momma bear climbed onto land but noticed another animal in the water, a second, smaller black bear cub struggling to stay afloat.

“It was very small and it was swimming back away from the mom.”

To save the smaller of two cubs from drowning they fished the baby from the water and warmed the shivering cub.

Black bear cub 'Fjord' after being rescued from Alaskan waters in Prince William Sound.
Black bear cub 'Fjord' after being rescued from Alaskan waters in Prince William Sound.(Emily Rongstad)

Standorf says moose calves and baby bears die all the time in Alaska for a number of reasons, but that is the beast sometimes of Mother Nature running its course. “It’s tough to see and a lot of times when we see actual abandonment or a mom leaving a calf or a bear cub something like that, [but] it’s because she knows something is wrong with that newborn, they have that sense,” says Standorf.

Rongstad says she knows it is prohibited to touch or transport wildlife in Alaska, but her motherly instincts kicked in.

“It’s also very difficult to let something so small drown,” she says.

Standorf says the cub named Fjord was brought to their team at Fish and Game in Anchorage where the bear was deemed healthy enough to be placed at the Alaska Zoo for further care.

“And I’ve been watching hoping that he will get put somewhere close enough where we can go see him,” Rongstad says.

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