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Blossom and Delilah were the lone residents of the Little River Zoo in Norman, Oklahoma, following the closure of the zoo in 2011 due to continuing financial woes. Faced with money problems, zoo officials tried to maintain their standards of care while finding homes for their 240 animals. But sadly for Blossom and Delilah, their diet was neglected, as were the grounds where they were kept. After several months of fruitless searching, officials still had not found a home for the two ill-nourished black bears. The situation was so desperate that negotiations had begun with a “big game” ranch where the bears could be hunted and killed by animal gamers.
Eager to place the two bears in a safe environment, Lions, Tigers & Bears founder and director, Bobbi Brink, began working with the zoo to load and transport the bears to the ranch in San Diego, where LTB had begun building a new bear habitat for its resident black bear, Liberty. With some modifications, the bear habitat was easily re-designed to accommodate two more bears.
While construction continued on the bear habitat, work was also being done for a new trailer that could handle the trip to Oklahoma and bring the bears safely back to California. New equipment was needed, such as air conditioners and cages that would make their long drive a much healthier ride. Bobbi’s dad worked tirelessly installing the air conditioning on the trailer, installing a new generator and new circuit breakers, helping to build the cage and make it work, and installing new vents for air on top of trailer.
Prior to the trailer’s completion, Bobbi learned that a heat wave had hit the mid-section of the country, so she immediately flew to Oklahoma to check on the bears’ situation and their health. She found the bears to be in moderate health, a little overweight from the unusual diet they had been fed, but otherwise faring well. LTB then hired an Oklahoma veterinarian to examine the bears and verify that they were healthy enough to make the long journey to San Diego.
Final efforts were made to complete the new trailer and, only a week after returning from Oklahoma, Bobbi was off again, this time with trailer in tow, ready to bring the bears home.
Since then, both bears have adapted well to their new habitat, which they now share with Liberty and Sugar Bear.
Conditions at the Little River Zoo were less than perfect — far less. Because of the zoo’s financial troubles, there wasn’t enough money to house or feed the wild animals. Blossom & Delilah lacked nutrition and were fed a variety of food not ideal for a bear’s diet. A good meal plan was certainly in order for the two black bears.
Meet Erin and Tray (Tray’s the one in the cowboy hat). When Bobbi first went to Oklahoma to check on the condition of Blossom & Delilah, she drove about 75 miles to meet with Tray at Arbuckle Wilderness Park. She needed to find someone who understood the animals and who could help her do some welding. Tray agreed to go to the Little River Zoo the very next day and see if he might be able to help get the bears out of there.
After taking a good look at what was needed, Tray decided he would come back during the week and build two small lockdowns within the one large lockdown, which was a great idea. The cages would have guillotine doors that Bobbi could lower with a rope to trap the bears when they walked into the smaller areas. So, while Bobbi was back in California prepping and getting the trailer ready, Tray and Erin went to the Little River Zoo and built the trap doors. Tray also agreed to come with his forklift and help the crew get the cage out of the trailer and moved through the woods.
The crew needed a great deal of patience as they tried to coax the bears into the cages, using every type of food they could think of. It took from Sunday till Tuesday night to get the first bear trapped. The second bear finally was trapped on Wednesday night. Tray was there every step of the way, and we are extremely grateful for his help. Can’t wait to have you out to the ranch some time Tray!
Meanwhile, Bobbi’s dad had worked tirelessly installing air conditioning on the trailer, a new generator, new circuit breakers, and new air vents at the top of the trailer. He also sat in the woods day and night with Bobbi, waiting to pull the rope and trap the bears at any moment. (The photo to the left was taken while they were getting the cage into the trailer and taking off the axle so it would fit.)
This is Matt. Matt used to work at the Little River Zoo before he lost his job due to the circumstances that closed the zoo. He love the animals — especially the bears — and he spent an entire week cutting down trees and bushes so the crew would have a trail to allow them to pull the cage back to the bear enclosure. After about four days of this very hard work in the extreme heat he thought he was having heat stroke, and he went to the hospital to be diagnosed. It turned out that Matt had kidney stones and the doctors did not want him to leave the hospital, but he toughed it out and finished helping with the bears.
Matt also spent half a day trying to unplug the disgusting pool the bears used at the zoo. It was so full of green goop that the water would not drain down a 3-inch pipe. Matt stuck it out as part of the crew till the very end. Thanks, Matt!