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Beary adventurous: Timber and Thorn come out to play

March 6, 2024, 10:57 a.m.
Topic: Animal well-being, Arrivals and departures
black bear cubs timber and thorn playing outside

Visitors might see double this week as orphaned bear cubs Timber and Thorn explore their Black Bear Ridge habitat at the Oregon Zoo. The duo has spent most of their time behind the scenes since arriving in December, but care staff say the cubs are growing in size and confidence and they now venture out to play nearly every day.

“It took Timber and Thorn a little while to get comfortable romping around outside,” said Travis Koons, who oversees the zoo’s Great Northwest area. “As orphans, they’ve had to figure a lot of things out on their own, but they’re growing up to be confident, playful young bears.” 

Found wandering separately in Alaska and too young to survive on their own, both cubs were rescued by state wildlife officials and taken to the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage for care before coming to Portland.

Care staff named the cubs in honor of their forest home and Portland’s major league soccer teams, the Timbers and Thorns. Eventually the youngsters will get to know the zoo’s adult black bears, Cubby and Dale, but for now they’re taking turns in the habitat. 

“Thorn and Timber both like to climb trees and play chase,” said Koons. “They’re a lot of fun to watch and we’re excited for guests to get to know them.” 

Once abundant in nearly all of North America’s forested regions, black bears have lost much of their habitat and were extirpated from great swaths of their former range. But populations have been bouncing back over the past two decades: 60% of U.S. and Canadian states and provinces report growing numbers, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which lists the bears’ current population trend as “increasing.”