SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center welcomed its newest resident on Wednesday, a black bear named Heavenly.
The bear wandered on to the Heavenly Mountain Resort in Lake Tahoe back in March. He was injured, underweight and looking for food. Heavenly was taken to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, where he was rehabilitated and released.
However, Heavenly was seen looking for food and approaching humans around the ski resort shortly after his release. Even though the bear wasn't aggressive, this meant Heavenly would not get another chance at life outside captivity. There were two options: find Heavenly a new home or euthanize him.
That new home would be in northern Scottsdale. While keeping bears is expensive, Kim Carr of the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center said that Heavenly's needs meant they'd do whatever needed to be done to take him in.
"Nobody else was stepping up and we kind of felt like, 'OK, let's just do this,'" Carr said. "We'll expand the bear enclosure. We're hoping to raise funds to make the bear enclosure bigger now that we've added another one."
Carr said adding on to the enclosure will cost close to $25,000. In addition to just expanding the room Heavenly and the other bears have to roam around in, the conservation center staff would like to add more climbing structures for the bears.
Carr also said that Heavenly's story can serve as a warning to people about the dangers of feeding bears. While this bear found a home, he'll never be able to live out of captivity. Many more bears end up being euthanized after experiences like Heavenly's.
"The worst thing you can do for a bear, and most wildlife, is to actually feed them," Carr said. "Especially bears. They have a big belly to fill and if they can find a free meal, that's where they're going to go."
Despite Heavenly never being able to learn to live on his own, Carr is confident he'll enjoy spending the rest of his life, which could be upward of 30 years, living in the conservation center.
"He's going to live out his life here at our sanctuary and hopefully be spoiled," Carr said. "We're going to give him lots of things to do to keep him occupied and he'll have companionship. I think if you're going to be a bear in captivity, what more could you ask for?"
To find out more about Heavenly and the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center, or to donate to their fundraiser for expanding the bear enclosure, visit their website.