Members Fund GPS Trackers for Orphaned Black Bear Cubs Released on Pikes Peak

February 29, 2024

Through Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s annual Member Conservation Vote, CMZoo members are funding an important ongoing study on the movements of wild black bears in the Pikes Peak region. In 2022, members voted to spend conservation-allocated membership revenue on GPS ear tags that Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officers use when reintroducing black bears to the wild.

In early February 2024, CPW transported two yearling black bear cubs that were fitted with the GPS ear tags from a rehabilitation facility to an artificial den on Pikes Peak. Later this spring, they’ll wake up and start their second chance at living wild.

According to CPW, one of the bears placed in the den this month was orphaned by its sow last summer in the Broadmoor neighborhood in southwest Colorado Springs – just down the road from CMZoo. The sow had four cubs, which is extremely unusual. CPW biologists speculate she may not have been able to care for all four cubs. It’s likely that as the runt of her litter, this little one was abandoned.

The other bear wandered into the Rifle Falls Fish Hatchery without its sow last summer. It would not have been able to survive on its own in the wild at that young age, so it found a home as a surrogate sibling with the ‘Broadmoor Bear’ at the rehabilitation center.

Both cubs, about a year old now, spent the last several months together, being kept as wild as possible in preparation for their reintroduction. Earlier this month, CMZoo staff joined CPW to observe their journey back to the wild.

“CPW officers pulled the little bears – who were under anesthesia – on sleds through the snowy evergreen forests on Pikes Peak and tucked them into a nice warm den,” said Zwicker. “They’ll stay in this den for the rest of winter, and then they’ll wake up and start helping their species by giving us a glimpse into their whereabouts over the next several months.”

The GPS data uploads from the ear transmitter tags about every two weeks. CPW tracks those snapshots of the bears’ locations to help define successful rehabilitation and care for orphaned bear cubs, and where to release them.

This is the second time member-funded GPS trackers have been used to track black bear movements after wild reintroduction. The first two cubs with these ear tag transmitters were released in January 2022 to the same artificial den.

One of the 2022-released bears dropped its ear tag several months after waking up in the den, as planned, and by all accounts is still living wild on the mountain. The other unfortunately reoffended and had to be euthanized after human-wildlife conflicts.

“It’s a sad fact, but it’s also a stark reminder that we need to help bears stay out of trouble,” said Zwicker. “With this data from the GPS trackers, biologists will be able to compare what four cubs do in the same space. They can look at the rehab strategies used for each and compare their success as wild bears. It’s going to help us help more wild bears stay wild.”

CPW reports that urban bear conflict is one of their biggest issues, especially bears getting into garbage at area homes and businesses. It will be valuable to study the effectiveness of rehabilitation efforts with orphaned bear cubs and see if they really do learn to avoid humans in the future. Zwicker urges Coloradans to be good neighbors of native wildlife by following simple ‘bear aware’ guidelines.

“Working with CPW on projects like this has enhanced my understanding of the natural world,” said Zwicker. “The folks at CPW truly care about wildlife. They’re incredibly dedicated and impressive professionals fighting the good fight for our local wildlife. Our roles can be different, but we’re all passionate stewards of our environment. I’m grateful our members are funding this connection between the Zoo’s animal advocates and the animal advocates at CPW.”

Since 2015, the Member Conservation Vote has provided $600,000 of membership revenue to support field conservation worldwide. Each year, a total of $100,000 of membership revenue supports conservation projects in two ways:

  • $25,000 to the Quarters for Conservation program, which has raised more than $5 million dollars for CMZoo’s legacy conservation projects since the program began in 2008.
  • $75,000 to projects voted for by CMZoo members through this annual vote.

Next month, CMZoo members will get the opportunity to vote on the 2024 Member Conservation Vote projects. Members, keep an eye on your email for your members-only link to vote! Interested in becoming a member? Visit

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