The Story of Ham and Sissy

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Ham&Sissy07A mother bear was poached in March. People in the area found the sow’s body and called the TWRA. At the crime scene the investigating officers heard cries coming from a nearby den and, inside, found two tiny, 2-month old cubs!

The orphans were transported to ABR. At first they were called Brother and Sissy but it soon became apparent that Brother was quite the actor, so his name was changed to ‘Ham.’

Because they were so small (4-lbs each!) they were started out on a milk replacement formula from bottles until they were able to lap the formula from a dish. Other soft, easy-to-digest foods (yogurt, applesause, rice baby cereal) were added to the menu. As they grew their diet included many fruits and vegetables and, eventually, the all-important nuts.

In summer, they moved from their small pen into the “Wild Side,” the large, natural enclosure surrounded by a blind-covered fence. Other cubs joined Ham and Sissy during their time at ABR, and all the cubs learned the wild skills they would need upon release. [Cubs in the Wild Side enclosure have no contact with with humans; their foods are thrown over the fence so that the bears do not see that it is coming from a human.]

Sissy became known for her love of the water in the enclosure — in fact, a photo of her in a pool was used on an ABR t-shirt.

Ham proved himself to be quite the clown and his antics were a source of amusement for anyone who saw him in photos or videos posted on the ABR Facebook page. Both Sissy and Ham were ready for their return to the wild the following December and, at release, Ham weighed 142-lbs. and Sissy 91-lbs.

Shortly before their release Sissy started to gather straw, carrying it in her mouth to one of the large culverts in the Wild Side enclosure that young bears use as den sites. Without ever having learned this behavior from a mother, she was instinctively preparing to build a den for the winter!