Two Yellowstone Cubs in need of Help

The internet furor over Cecil the Lion and his killer, Walter Palmer, has subsided a bit this week, only to be replaced by a tragic wildlife situation south of the border in Yellowstone National Park. On Friday, August 7th (one week ago), 63 year-old Montana hiker, Lance Crosby, was attacked, killed, and partially consumed by a female grizzly bear known locally as Blaze.

Yesterday, after six days of deliberation, Yellowstone officials decided to “euthanize” (aka KILL) Blaze, and send her two young cubs off to a zoo in the eastern United States, essentially doubling down on the tragedy of Crosby’s death by not only killing Blaze, but also sentencing her two cubs to a life behind bars.

As a result, a number of prominent nature photographers in Canada and the U.S. have begun an overnight online campaign calling for the cubs to be rehabilitated in the world’s only grizzly bear rehabilitation facility, the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter in Smithers, British Columbia, Canada — the very same rehab facility that I have been working with closely since May 2013.

Following is an impassioned plea from wildlife photographer Simon Jackson (follow him on Facebook at Ghost Bear Photography), along with images provided courtesy of Sandy Sisti with Wild at Heart Images. A huge thank you to both of them for their actions in this fight.


Simon Jackson, Ghost Bear Photography:

This morning, it was announced that both of the grizzly cubs involved in last Friday’s fatal attack in Yellowstone will be sent to the Toledo Zoo. Not a rehabilitation facility – not even a sanctuary for orphaned cubs – but a zoo.

In a tragedy that is continually being compounded by decisions that make this entire mess worse, it is confounding as to why Yellowstone refused to do their due diligence and at least explore rehabilitating and re-releasing these cubs-of-the-year into the wild.


Blaze with a young cub – Photography by Sandy Sisti, Wild at Heart Images

Yesterday morning, Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter in BC offered to rehabilitate the cubs. Though there were hurdles to clear with moving the bears across the border, their track record of successfully releasing 18 grizzly cubs back into the wild spoke for itself. People of all walks of life offered to help and make the crossing possible, all it required was for Yellowstone to reach out to Angelika from Northern Lights.

Angelika waited all day for a phone call that never came.

Then Yellowstone announced the cubs would never return to the wild, but be placed in a zoo for life.

According to media reports, the cubs won’t be on “display” for at least another month, but in the meantime will be gradually introduced to humans and feeding times. This means the window to reverse the decision is closing rapidly as soon these bears might be too habituated to rehabilitate.

It’s unclear how involved the Toledo Zoo was in discussions with Yellowstone on the fate of these cubs, but it is critical they realize that they didn’t save these cubs from death. Their only act – even if their hearts are in the right place (and I’m sure they are) – has been to deprive these animals of the right to full lives as wild bears. Not to mention, they are depriving a genetically isolated population of grizzly bears two reproducing females, critical to advancing the overall health of the ecosystem.

It must be said, that if the Toledo Zoo does not rescind their offer to take these cubs and encourage Yellowstone and the National Park Service to embrace the proven track record of rehabilitation, they are complicit in this disastrous series of poor decisions. Their reputation – which is already very poor after a sloth bear they had on loan died of dehydration while under Toledo’s care – will be forever tarnished by preventing these grizzly cubs from living in the wild.

We urge you to contact the Toledo Zoo (Email: and Phone: 1-419-385-5721) and ask they change their minds. We ask that you contact Yellowstone and the Secretary of the Interior (as well as your representatives) and urge them to re-think this well intended, yet awful decision.

And, of course, this issue is really just starting. The elephants in the room are the questions that linger.

Why won’t Yellowstone embrace the proven concept of rehabilitation, given their mandate to protect and enhance the grizzly population?

Simon Jackson asks, “Why won’t Yellowstone embrace the proven concept of rehabilitation?” – Photo by Sandy Sisti

Why aren’t new protocols for handling bear cubs involved in attacks being put in place?

Why haven’t new rules been drawn up to make bear spray mandatory, potentially saving the lives of people and bears?

Why was Elephant Back trail re-opened immediately, even with new grizzly sightings being reported? Has no one learned anything from this tragedy?

Ultimately, we’re not the best suited to lead this fight and are working to find the right voices who have the expertise to lead the campaign. But we will continue to do everything within our power to ask the questions, get the answers, and advocate for positive change to ensure this grizzly sow did not die in vain.

Thank you for your ongoing support. 

Simon Jackson


Blaze with her two young cubs in 2015 – Photograph by Sandy Sisti, Wild at Heart Images

For more information and the full story behind Blaze’s death and how you can help contact officials involved in the decision-making on this, please read Simon’s blog post, Outrage in Yellowstone, here:

Do: Sign the petition to rehabilitate the cubs:

Do: Call US Senator Danes office in Bozeman 1-406-587-3446 and ask him to help get these cubs relocated into a rehabilitation center.

Do: Contact the Toledo Zoo (Email: and Phone: 1-419-385-5721) and ask CEO and Executive Director Jeff Sailer and the Board of Directors to change their minds.

Read: Article from Animal Justice:

Read: Article from Psychology Today:

Photos: Sandy Sisti – Wild at Heart Images-Wildlife and Nature Photography

16 Comments on “Two Yellowstone Cubs in need of Help

Rachel Tilseth
August 14, 2015 at 10:39 pm


Great perspective and information on this truly heart wrenching story.

August 14, 2015 at 10:40 pm

I applaud you

August 14, 2015 at 11:28 pm

It cut me off couldn't say what I wanna say …
Nothing up to now NPS has done good for these bears life ….I like to see cubs in rehab and not zoo…..I am surprise zoos still operate LEGALY ….let us fight this terrible wrong …

August 15, 2015 at 12:31 am

Please do not send these cubs to a zoo ! They do not deserve that ! This is a rehab facility in McCall Idaho… Please consider contacting them !

Charlotte Tedford
August 15, 2015 at 12:32 am

Thank you for your work. We need to keep these cubs safe but not in a Zoo!

Diane Porter
August 15, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Thank you for helping with saving these cubs and trying to save them from a life behind bars! It seems to me that with Northern Lights saying they would take these cubs, the Director of Yellowstone was quick to judgement to give these cubs to Toledo. They want this problem to be gone and done with, to wash their hands of the incident. If they truly had the best interest of both the mom and the babies, they would have relocated them to begin with but now with mom gone it's just easier to give them to the highest bidder or first come first serve attitude. I called Yellowstone and got absolutely no where other than yes the cubs are going to a zoo in Toledo, end of conversation. I asked to speak to their public relations dept in which I got voicemail and no returned phone call. I still think we need to light a fire and get a boycott against Yellowstone. I have seen and read comments from members of Yellowstone who donate and support them regularly say they are pulling their memberships as well as others saying they will never go there again. I also read a comment from a man who said not smart to boycott Yellowstone because it would hurt their eco system and employees would loose their jobs. Many employees are seasonal, not to mention the fact that Yellowstone is under the dept of the Interior in which they receive gvmt. funding. I think boycotting Yellowstone would be a huge wake up to the director that the public will not take this lightly.

August 15, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Give the cubs a chance and send them to a santuary.

August 15, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Would you please sign and share our petition to help Blaze's cubs…..Thank You!…..not-a-zoo/

Ellen Floren
August 15, 2015 at 4:05 pm

these cubs deserve to live the life they were born into…..not capitivity

August 15, 2015 at 4:05 pm

How do you rehab bears not to eat human flesh? And then how would you know if your techniques will work?

August 15, 2015 at 5:23 pm

Here's an well-written and objective view on this tragic story instead of the usual one-sided sanctimonious rhetoric.

Christine Bogdanowicz
August 15, 2015 at 6:57 pm

John, you are a gem. We've been struggling with how to help and now you've given us options. I sincerely hope these efforts help get Blaze's cubs to BC. Thank you…

August 16, 2015 at 11:59 pm

I am sorry for the victim and his family. However i feel the killing of Blaze was completely unnecessary and an act of human revenge upon a wild species that does not distinguish between humans and any other prey. Important to note we do not know the circumstances of this unfortunate event. I would like to know what the stats are on humans killed by bears and any proof that a bear that has killed a human suddenly develops a preference for human flesh? I would be surprised if any such statistics exist. Why? Because anytime there has been a conflict the bear is dispatched immediately, or, never found.
Yes, revenge to possibly placate the "victim's" family and a small segment of the public. This incident has gone from one victim to four in short order. My, what tangled and ignorant webs we humans weave.

August 17, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Please do not send these cubs to a zoo !!! Please check out this facility in McCall, Idaho !

Mac McMillen
August 18, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Bears do not develop a taste for human flesh. There is no evidence that once a bear consumes human flesh that it will then want to hunt humans. That is a myth. Bears are eating machines, and they want and need food, no matter what the source. For some reason humans thinks they are above being part of the food chain. That is ridiculous and arrogant thinking.

The cubs should be sent to a rehab facility to prepare them for the wild. The rehab facility will not rehab them from eating or wanting human flesh because that is unnecessary and a fool's errand. Food is food to a bear, no matter if it's an elk, bison, or even a human. These cubs deserve better than a zoo, and their mother deserved better than to be executed for just being a bear.

Mary Johnson
August 19, 2015 at 4:14 pm

It seems like there is a need for a place in the United States to rehabilitate and release cubs.


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