Meet Jebbie, a polar bear cub’s best friend

Oct 21st, 2021 | By | Category: Lead articles

21.10.2021 – Photos and story by Molly Merrow

When little Jebbie, an abandoned grizzly bear cub, was found wandering alone near homes in Tok, Alaska last June, his prospects did not seem very bright. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game moved him to the Alaska Zoo, because he was way too young to survive on his own. The people in the neighborhood where the cub was hanging out gave him the name Jebbie.

jebbie patticake

At the same time, the Detroit Zoo was looking for a companion for Laerke, a polar bear cub who had been removed from her mother and twin sister when she was two days old and failing. Laerke had been cared for by humans, which was fine during her early months, but now she really needed a playmate to learn how to be a bear. Her twin sister Astra had their mother to play and wrestle with, but Laerke, who had been totally dependent upon her human parents, was growing and it was time to reduce contact with her caretakers. While the public could see Astra and Suka every day, Laerke roamed the grassy meadow area only when the zoo was closed, always under supervision, but the public could not see her.

In July, Jebbie was brought to the Detroit Zoo to be a playmate for Laerke, since they are about the same age and both needed to be with another bear. When he arrived in Detroit, the grizzly cub weighed 76 pounds.

Jebbie stand tall

Jebbie stick

After a quarantine period for Jebbie, the two cubs were introduced behind the scenes, with a mesh barrier so they could smell each other and interact. Soon they were together, still out of public view.

Jebbie meet Laerke

The cubs’ keeper thinks that Jebbie most likely grew up with siblings before he was separated, because when the two cubs were introduced, Jebbie knew bear play, but Laerke had to learn it from Jebbie.

Jebbie bear hug

This remarkable pair of cubs made their public debut on September 23. Laerke now weighs 160 pounds, and Jebbie is at 208 pounds, and gaining fast. Laerke and Astra are now 11 months old.

laerke bite jebbie

When Jebbie and Laerke play in the meadow, Mother Suka and Laerke’s twin sister Astra sometimes stand near the separating moat and watch the two cubs playing, Astra looks like she wishes she could join the fun. Astra weighs 260 pounds, so Laerke is still a hundred pounds less than her sister.

Laerke Jebbie together

Laerke Jebbie wrestle

Currently, Mother Suka and daughter Astra play and swim every day in the Pack Ice section of the habitat. Father Nuka has access to the grassy meadow at times, and when he refuses to come in, the cubs can’t come out, so I made my visit a two day event, to make sure I saw Jebbie and Laerke. I finally saw them on my second day.

The two cubs have a lot of fun together, and seem well matched, but there are differences. Laerke, as a marine mammal, spends a lot of time in the water. Jebbie, as a land bear, doesn’t want to get his head wet, but will go into the water once in awhile. He would rather circle around the pool.

Laerke walk jebbie

Laerke Jebbie splash

No one knows how long they can stay together. Jebbie will grow up to be a very large grizzly bear, and even as a cub, he has really long claws. But for now, it is a good solution for this pair of cubs.




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  1. Dear Mervi!
    Thank you for this wonderful story. I wish Jebbie and Laerke a long time together.
    Hugs
    Ludmila

  2. Dear Molly,

    This is fantastic! What an amazing true story!

    I’m so glad for both Jebbie and Laerke – they have a play mate now and Jebbie has a good home. I don’t know if he will stay in Detroit but at least now he can feel safe and happy.

    Both bears are, of course, cuter than cute!

    Thank you so much for this wonderful and even touching article!

    Hugs from Mervi

  3. Liebe Molly,

    vielen Dank für diese herzerwärmende und zauberhafte Geschichte über die zwei Bärenkinder.
    Hoffentlich können sie noch lange zusammen bleiben!

    Liebe Grüße
    Britta-Gudrun

  4. Dear Molly and dear Mervi!
    My heart swells at these cute pictures. Did I miss a cuteness alarm?
    The two bear cubs in white and brown were lucky in their misfortune
    They can now help each other grow from a cute little bear to a gorgeous big one.
    I wish them only the very best for their future!

    Hugs
    Anke

  5. THANK YOU FOR THE INTERESTING STORY.
    TWO LOVELY COMPANIONS ! 😀

  6. Dear Molly and Mervi
    Thank you for this heartwarming story.
    Books still disagree on whether Polar Bears
    are larger than Grizzly Bears. As the photos
    show “Baby Bear don’t care”. How long Jebbie
    and Laerke will be together we dont know,so
    I am glad that Molly will be visiting them for us.

  7. Wie schön für die beiden, ich hoffe, sie können lange zusammen bleiben.
    Danke für die wunderschöne Geschichte.

    Liebe Grüße, Erika

  8. dear Molly
    thank you so much for the wonderful story about Jebbie and Laerke, the lovely pictures show us what a special time the cubs have, every day together is a big gift for the bears I wish Jebbie and Laerke a good long life
    dear Mervi, thank you for sharing the story with us. The enclosure looks very nice
    dear greetins
    Filomena

  9. Thank you very much dear Molly.
    Best wishes to Nuka, Suka, Astra, Laerke and Jebbie.

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