As many still mourn the tragic death of Bobbi the bear, Redding resident Susan Winters is fighting to make sure that Bobbi’s cubs can live on. The beloved black bear was something of celebrity in the local area she called home. She was well known to residents of Redding, Newtown and Bethel. Her death was a shock to the many people who followed her adventures over the years.
“Bobbi was a symbol to the people in the area,” said Winters, who administers “The Real Redding CT 411,” a Facebook page that originally christened Bear #217 as Bobbi. Winters also edits the Hello Easton and Hello Redding pages.
Bobbi was allegedly shot and killed on May 12 by an off-duty Ridgefield police officer, leaving behind her two cubs. The cubs, who have been named Indra and Izzy, are four months old and far from being able to take care of themselves. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection captured the cubs, and delivered them to the Kilham Bear Center in Lyme, N.H., where they currently live.
“Bobbi’s cubs came in fairly old, they’re in with 24 other cubs in a cub barn” said Ben Kilham, who runs the Kilham Bear Center. The cubs need large amounts of food to help them grow strong and healthy, including zoological formula for the youngest cubs, as well as routine veterinary care and medicine if they get sick. After they outgrow the barn, the young bears are released into an 11-acre forested enclosure until the time when they are ready to return to the wild. At 18 months they are released back into the wild, which Kilham explained as the time that bear cubs would naturally leave their mother.
The bear center also places an emphasis on properly socializing the young bears with others of their kind. “There’s a lot of yearlings out there that are able to make friends with strangers and learn from them. We do a lot so that they learn better when they get back out there with other bears, because there’s a lot of social learning,” said Kilham.
Raising a bear cub, however, is not easy and is not cheap. According to Winters it costs $10,000 a year to raise each cub, and the bear center relies on donations to help care for the many bears it has taken in, which now includes Bobbi’s cubs. Winters is organizing a fundraiser through her online newsletter “hello, NewsCT”, the proceeds of which will directly support the Kilham Bear Center and the welfare of Bobbi’s cubs. Individuals who donate $20 will receive a pewter keepsake depicting Bobbi and her cubs to help keep her memory alive. For those who want to support the bear center directly, you can donate on their website at kilhambearcenter.org.
Winters said that Bobbi was more than just a local celebrity, and also played an important role in teaching people how to co-exist with the nature around them. “She was a good symbol for being bear aware, to take in your birdfeeders and your garbage and not leave things out for animals just to get. She was kind of like Smokey the Bear to us.”
The police officer who allegedly shot Bobbi remains on administrative leave as the Connecticut DEEP’s investigation into the incident is still on going. The Ridgefield Police Department and the DEEP both had no further comment until the investigation is completed.
The Kilham Bear Center does not allow visitors, but those interested in seeing the cubs can check out their Instagram page, https://www.instagram.com/kilhambearcenter/, where pictures and videos are posted daily.