Rehab center bears down on city for financial aid
ASPEN – The rehabilitation center that has taken in two Aspen black bear cubs, orphaned this summer after the Division of Wildlife killed their mother, wants the city government to help pay for their care.
Three volunteers from the Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation rehabilitation center near Silt went before the Aspen City Council this past Monday asking for $5,000, which is roughly the cost of taking care of the young, motherless bear cubs.
“These are Aspen’s bears,” foundation volunteer Lindsay Smith told the council while flashing a large photo on the screen in council chambers.
Smith appeared with her co-volunteers, Pat Althouse and Dick Coppock. Mayor Mick Ireland asked her to make a formal submittal in writing for funds, which Smith did Thursday.
Whether the foundation will get monetary assistance remains to be seen. The city’s grants committee will review the request and make recommendations to the council. The council will set the 2010 budget in the coming months.
Just like the rehabilitation center, the Aspen city government is facing major budget shortfalls – on Thursday it laid off 12 employees and eliminated four open positions, shaving $1.36 million off the operating budget.
Smith said for the first time ever, the foundation is asking municipalities for financial assistance. She said she was filing a request for $5,000 from the town of Basalt on Thursday as well. The rehab center took in two orphaned cubs from Basalt after the DOW euthanized their mother.
The same request will be asked of Glenwood Springs, Steamboat Springs and Grand Junction, which are the other cities from which bears were transported to the center. The rehab center has taken in 11 bears so far this year.
“Some were abandoned and were starving,” she said. “Others were orphaned.”
Smith said donations are significantly down this year and the foundation relies solely upon them to support its $100,000 annual budget.
“We were thinking about standing out on the street and asking for money in front of fancy restaurants,” she joked about fundraising efforts. “It’s been tough.”
The DOW doesn’t provide any financial assistance to the rehab center.
“They give us no money, they just give us animals and direction,” Smith said.
The Aspen cubs live together in a pen located in the mountains past East Divide southeast of Silt. The costs associated with caring for them include building heavy-duty fencing and the cage, which has a little house in it, as well as boards and limbs for them to climb on and tires to play with.
“We call it the halfway house,” Smith said of the cubs’ new home. “It’s quite a nice little set up.”
Still, it’s not as luxurious as the cubs former life of dumpster diving in Aspen with their mother. The DOW’s policy is to euthanize a problem bear that has been habituated to humans and their trash. The cubs are taken away in an attempt to not let them habituate further.
The baby bruins will start their hibernation in the pen and then the foundation’s owner, Nanci Limbach, will dig them out and take them to their final winter resting spot. The location, far from human beings, will be selected by the DOW and will likely be in a snow cave.
Smith said Limbach has tagged more than 100 bears and has had a 98 percent success rate of them not returning to the communities they came from.
The bears are fed mostly fruit – watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, apples and berries. City Market donates some food, as do farmers, Smith said.
The foundation, which takes in dozens of wild animals, has a limited pool of volunteers. That’s partly because the animals aren’t supposed to be around too many human beings. Only a few people are responsible for feeding and cleaning up after the bears, Smith noted.
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