SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KTVU, KTXL) - Two 5-week-old bear cubs are now in the care of a rehabilitation facility in South Lake Tahoe, after being separated from their mother and found along a Northern California highway.
Wildlife officials said the cubs were found on March 9 along State Route 96 in Yreka.
Investigators believe someone may have illegally separated the cubs from their mother and left the young animals on the highway.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife said its investigators are processing evidence at the site where the cubs were discovered.
Wildlife veterinarians evaluated the cubs and determined the young bears are healthy.
The cubs have been named Blaze and Yreka and are now in the hands of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, where they will remain for the next year or so.
While the whereabouts of their mother are a mystery, it's clear that her babies did not find their way to the roadside by themselves.
At 5 weeks, they can't wander off on their own.
“They scoot, but they don't walk. They can't yet,” Cheryl Millham, of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care said.
Animal care officials said the plan is to return the bears to the wild when they reach 100 pounds.
The cubs currently weigh a little more than four pounds each.
"So far, everything going well with these two boys," Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care wrote on Facebook on Saturday.
The tiny bears have been put on a special formula and are fed four times a day. They're being kept in a crate. Eventually wildlife officials will move the animals to a larger habitat to give them room to climb, explore, play and become more independent.
“We are the surrogate parents," Millham said. "We’ll teach these guys what to look for and how to survive in the wild,” she said.
So for the time being the two brother bears will depend on their surrogates and each other to get prepared for their return home, to the wild.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking the public for help in the search for whoever is responsible for separating the cubs from their mother, and investigators are looking into whether poachers were involved.
Anyone with information on this case is asked to call the department's tipline at (888) 334-2258.