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Orphaned Grizzly Cubs Make Splashing Debut

The 14-month-old brothers seemed happy and healthy as they swam, played, roughhoused and nibbled on the spring forsythia.

If the sunny weather isn’t already enough, here is a story that is certain to warm the cockles of your heart. Three orphaned grizzly bears—Mike, Thor and Boo—are happy, healthy and making a big splash in their new habitat at the today.

At their much-awaited pubic debut, the 14-month-old brothers spent the morning swimming, exploring, and finding a few hidden apples along the way.

The cubs were orphaned in October when their mother was shot and killed by a poacher. After a brief stay at the Alaska Zoo, none other than FedEx delivered the cubs to the Detroit Zoo on Dec. 2. The cubs spent their first three months in pseudo-hibernation, said Bob Lessnau, the zoo’s curator of mammals.

“We kept them quiet for several months,” said Lessnau. "We have had them outside in quarantine facilities before, but this is their first public appearance.

The trio weighed between 95 and 99 pounds when they arrived. At recent physicals they weighed in the 217-247 pound range. They are 4 ½ feet tall.

“They have a lot of growing to do,” Lessnau said. “They will grow to be 8 or 9-feet tall and weigh 800-pounds.”

The brothers spent the morning playing in their new home with a 40-foot rock wall and 6-foot deep swimming hole. When the 8,400-square-foot habitat was built in 1928, it was considered groundbreaking because it featured a moat barrier rather than bars.

The cubs seemed to truly enjoy their new digs. As they approached the press lined up along the moat, they paused briefly and raised their noses to pick up the scent of all the reporters before wondering off again, always traveling as a threesome.

“They rely on each other for comfort,” Lessnau said. “Given the transition of being taken from the wild and placed in captivity in the Alaska Zoo; and then crated and shipped to Detroit; and going through quarantine and now being in a new habitat; they have gone through a lot. They seem to be adapting really well.”

Here’s how to tell the cubs apart:

  • Thor has a blond streak across his chest
  • Boo is the smallest of the three and the most aggressive
  • Mike is the largest

The Detroit Zoo in open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Beginning in April, and through Labor Day, the hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $14 for adults 15 to 61, $12 for senior citizens 62 and older, and $9 for children 2 to 14 (children under 2 are free). For more information, call 248-541-5717 or visit www.detroitzoo.org

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