Bear necessities

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo The Hillcrest Zoo welcomed two black bear cubs Sunday. The sister cubs are eight months old and weigh about 60 pounds each.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Like any toddler, they go crazy for candy bars, chew on everything in sight, climb things they shouldn’t and crave attention. But these children have wriggly noses, long claws and rows of sharp, shiny white teeth.

Life in Clovis has opened up a whole new world to two female black bear cubs that arrived Sunday at the Hillcrest Park Zoo.

Donated by a rescue-based Oklahoma animal park, the 8-month-old cubs were raised in a pen with a concrete floor, according to their caretaker, Kathy Yanotti.

“They’ve never been on grass,” she said as the curious cubs waddled around their pen chewing on leaves and examining fallen twigs.

“They didn’t know what the grass was for,” Yanotti said. “They’re just really curious and everything is new to them.”

As Yanotti entered the pen, the cubs perked up, barreling toward the gate. About the size of a large dog on all fours, one of the cubs wrapped a furry arm around her leg while the other stood on her hind legs and placed her paws on Yanotti’s waist.

Yanotti said the cubs, who were raised by humans, crave attention and contact.

“They’re just like bratty little kids,” she said, rubbing one’s snout while trying to dislodge the other from her leg.

Despite a diet of fruits, vegetables and a specially formulated “bear biscuit,” the cubs have shown a fondness for crispy chocolate snack treats and went berserk when a keeper entered their pen with a candy bar.

“I haven’t found anything they wouldn’t eat,” Yanotti said.

Local elementary students will participate in a contest in coming weeks to name the cubs, Yanotti said.

Ivan Romero, 8, watched the cubs groom each other in the corner by the fence.

“They’re cute,” Romero said. “They’re kind of bigger than I thought they would be.”

The bears weigh about 60 pounds, Zookeeper Mark Yanotti said. Adult female black bears weigh between 90 and 300 pounds.

Kathy Yanotti said the playful and interactive nature of the bear cubs is different from the personality of “BooBoo the Bear,” an adult black bear who died of congestive heart disease in August after 18 years at the zoo.

“He was old, grumpy and he liked things his own way,” whereas the girls will interact with the public and entertain with their youthful antics, she said.

“As long as there’s people around,” she said, “they won’t get bored.”

The bears are the second recent addition to the zoo. About two weeks ago, Mark Yanotti said a pair of young, spotted hyenas arrived.