The importance of the special bond between bear cubs at the Detroit Zoo

Bear named Jebbie by local Alaskan residents

The importance of the special bond between bear cubs at Detroit Zoo.
The importance of the special bond between bear cubs at Detroit Zoo.

ROYAL OAK, Mich. – A new friendship at the Detroit Zoo is capturing hearts across the country.

Jebbie, a grizzly bear cub from Alaska, has become close friends with Laerke, a white polar bear cub.

Read: Orphaned grizzly bear cub from Alaska finds new home at Detroit Zoo

Laerke was born at the Detroit Zoo, but after needing an emergency care, her mother wouldn’t take her back -- and life on your own is no way to live as a rambunctious bear cub.

“It’s really important for bears -- like many animals -- to not grow up alone,” said Scott Carter, with the Detroit Zoological Society.

But there was a problem -- no one in the country had a polar bear cub who could come over and play, so Detroit Zoo officials had to look for someone unconventional.

“It didn’t take very long for Alaska to contact us and say they had a cub that had been found wandering by himself,” Carter said.

Jebbie was orphaned by his mother in Alaska and after a few long flights, several weeks of introductions and supervised playdates, they were able to socialize with each other.

“They both had to learn how to interact with another bear -- which took them a little bit of time,” Carter said. “Like all bear cubs, they play kind of rough and they’re both okay with that.”

Laerke and her new best friend got to make their debut to the entire Detroit Zoo together.

“She spends a lot of time in the pool. She loves the pool and he typically likes the pool too,” Carter said. “But all day today, she can’t get him to join her in the pool. She’s been trying all morning.”

While Jebbie and Laerke may be cute, their story might be one we see more of in the wild. As the climate warms, grizzly bears are forced to travel north to find food and polar bears are being forced south, which means we could see more friendships in the wild in the years to come.

“We are seeing more reports of polar bears and grizzly bears coming together,” Carter said. “There’s been a few reports of them breeding with each other in the wild.”

Left on their own in a changing world, neither would likely have survived, but the two cubs proved life without a little help would be unbearable.

Related: Detroit Zoo vaccinating at-risk animals for COVID-19


About the Authors:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.