Bear cub finds new home at Montana Grizzly Encounter


MISSOULA, Mont. - In mid-June, the Montana Grizzly Encounter rescued a baby bear from Alaska. Her name is Bella and she is a six month old Brown Bear cub.

"Bella showed up in a neighborhood in Dry Creek, Alaska," explained Montana Grizzly Encounter Co-owner Ami Testa.

The young cub hung around the Alaskan neighborhood for four days, but Testa said no mother bear was coming to find her. Fish and Game stepped in to find her a new home, and they thought of Montana Grizzly Encounter, the bear rescue and sanctuary east of Bozeman.

"We had her shipped right into the Bozeman airport," said Testa.

Now she has a new family and she has bonded to her adopted mom Testa.

"Being a wild born cub, her mom had already instilled in her to fear humans and to fear just about everything," Testa said. "We definitely had to take our time getting to know her."

But every day, Bella gets more comfortable with her surroundings.

"We've been taking things real slow, introducing things real slow, new sounds, smells, foods, everything," Testa explained.

And her favorite activity is to learn.

"Their intelligence is just under primates," Testa said. "They're very intelligent."

Bella knows how to shake, to lie down, weigh herself and how to avoid the electric fence around her play pen.

"She really likes grapes, and raspberries and popsicles, so I use those types of things to reward her," Testa said.

Because bears are inherently dangerous animals, Testa said the better trained and occupied Bella is, the less likely she is to go back to biting and rough-housing.

"You saw her run over to the bucket on her own," said Testa. "It's like, 'c'mon, let's do some more training, this is fun,' and I try to make it fun for her."

While Testa is happy to give Bella a forever home, she explained that's not the goal of the Montana Grizzly Encounter.

"We would rather see bears in the wild than in captivity," she said, "so if we can help educate people about them and help them stay in the wild, that's our goal."

Right now, Montana Grizzly Encounter says Bella is not ready for the public to see her, but with continued training, she will be soon.

The Montana Grizzly Encounter now has five bears at the sanctuary.