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Bearizona welcomes new cub resident and question why he's so small

Buddy was rescued from a Tucson neighborhood last week
Buddy the bear cub Bearizona
Posted at 2:05 PM, Dec 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-20 08:04:00-05

WILLIAMS, AZ — A Christmas elf or a lost bear? Bearizona Wildlife Park in northern Arizona is welcoming its newest resident, Buddy.

The bear cub was rescued in a Tucson neighborhood last week.

He's named after the Christmas movie, Elf, because wildlife officials say Buddy is quite small for his age, much like an elf.

He weighs only 15 pounds and officials with Arizona Game and Fish and Bearizona say, "The math doesn’t work.”

According to Dave O'Connell with Bearizona, “Bear cubs in the United States are all born close to January or February, so this little fella should be around 70 pounds this time of year.”

Wildlife officials are also stumped as to how Buddy made his way off the Catalina Mountains and into the Tucson neighborhood. They question whether the bear was orphaned or abandoned.

“If it got separated from its mother, regardless of why in the backcountry, how did a bear that small get all of the way off the mountain?” wondered Mark Hart with AZ Game and Fish. “We would have thought that a bear that size would have been picked off by a predator - a coyote, a mountain lion, or even another bear.”

Another part of the mystery, besides Buddy's size and health, is: "This cub doesn’t seem to have the normal fear of humans that it should,” said O’Connell. “We will never know the whole story, but if someone illegally fed this cub for months, it could explain his comfort around humans. It might also explain why he is so small.”

Being that Buddy was found in a neighborhood, he could have been euthanized, but since he was too comfortable with humans, that was not the case.

O'Connell reminds everyone of Bearizona's two key messages to the public: “If you care, leave it there. A fed bear is a dead bear.”

Buddy is getting his veterinary checkups and will be available for meet-and-greets at Bearizona by the end of the month in his new quarantine area.