Oak (left) and Tule. Photos courtesy Sequoia Park Zoo.

Press release from the Sequoia Park Zoo:

In partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care (LTWC), the Sequoia Park Zoo is excited to announce that two non-releasable bear cubs, currently known as “Oak” and “Tule”, have officially moved into the Zoo’s new Bear and Coyote habitat. The cubs will not be visible to guests - but might be heard playing behind-the-scenes in the care quarters - while they become acclimated to their new home. Animal care staff will monitor the health and comfort of the cubs over the next month, a standard practice among zoos, before introducing them to visitors. Guests can expect to start seeing the cubs in late June.

Oak and Tule were rescued by Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care in Spring 2022 and have grown up and bonded together during their year-long rehabilitation. Oak weighed 6.5 lbs when she was found orphaned in Oak Run, California, in early May 2022. Unfortunately, Oak never displayed the appropriate fear response to humans, despite the best efforts of her care team to prepare her for life in the wild. 

Tule (pronounced Too-Lee) was only weeks old when he was found in April 2022 on the Tule River Nation Reservation. The local community spent several days searching for his mother but were unable to locate her, and the Tule River Tribal Police Department transported him to LTWC for rehabilitation. Tule’s initial exam revealed that he weighed only 3.7 lbs and had a variety of health issues. Veterinary staff consulted with specialists from around the world about his unique case. Although most of his health issues are resolved, tests and medical exams determined that Tule’s coat will not regrow, which is essential for him to survive in the wild. Due to their conditions, CDFW determined that both cubs were non-releasable.

Oak and Tule were the first orphaned bear cubs admitted to LTWC in the Spring 2022 season. On the LTWC webcam, they have often been seen wrestling, chasing, and socializing with each other. We thank Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care for their hard work and dedication to Oak and Tule, and we are deeply grateful to Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria for their generous support of the new habitat. The Sequoia Park Zoo looks forward to fostering Oak and Tule’s continued friendship and growth and sharing their stories with our guests.

Every year, the state of California must find homes for a small population of animals that are deemed non-releasable. Facilities like the Sequoia Park Zoo play an important role in providing permanent homes for non-releasable animals and creating educational opportunities to learn about conserving and living with wildlife.

Oak and Tule goofing around in their former home at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care.