Escot provides 'forever' home for rescued bear cubs

Bear cubs Mish and Lucy

Bear cubs Mish and Lucy have a new home at Wildwood Escot - Credit: Wildwood Escot

For the first time in its history, Wildwood Escot has welcomed two Eurasian brown bear cubs and is giving visitors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get unique access to the siblings in their new habitat.
Mish and Lucy, who are unable to return to the wild, arrived at their forever home at the park, near Ottery St Mary, on Friday, after a temporary stay at the Trust’s sister park in Kent.
The pair, who were rescued from certain death in the Albanian mountains in 2019, will be able to enjoy lots of enrichment at their new home, from trees to climb and earth dens to dig, to root balls, fallen trees, toys and rope challenges, and daily food treasure hunts.
In the coming weeks, visitors will also be able to book a “Bear Experience”, giving them a unique opportunity to meet and learn all about the bears with exclusive behind the scenes access.
Wildwood Escot general manager George Hyde said: “We couldn’t be happier to have Mish and Lucy here after all this time. They’ll be the first bears we’ve ever had at the park and we’ve created a fantastic woodland home for them to explore and grow in.”
“Lucy and Mish had a really tough start in life but really thrived under the care of our expert keepers in Kent. We can’t wait to continue the great rehabilitative work that the team has already started.
“We’re also really excited to be able to give visitors the park a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the bears up close and learn all about them. They’ll even be able to scatter a feed, before meeting the bears and giving them a treat.”
The orphaned bears will begin life at Escot in a temporary residence while the finishing touches are added to their forever home.  These have both been designed to offer them plenty of opportunities to explore, play and forage under the watchful eye of the charity’s expert animal team, all behaviours they would have learned in the wild.
Later this summer, the bears  will move to a fantastic, custom-built acre-and-a-half, permanent enclosure in the park, the equivalent of about 1.5 football fields. Built across beautiful Devon woodland and grassland, everything will be left as natural as possible and will create a lifelong habitat for the cubs.
Visitors to the park will be able to get up close to these extraordinary animals by walking on a very exciting ‘bear bridge’ which will link two sides of the exhibit and give guests a birds-eye view over the cubs’ woodland home.
Paul Whitfield, Wildwood Trust’s Director General said: “All of the bears we care for at Wildwood have been rescued just like Lucy and Mish, who quite simply would not be able to survive in the wild.
“Their journey is an extraordinary one, but they’re not alone. They represent the struggle of wildlife to exist in its natural habitats in the face of the climate and nature crisis. We will give these cubs the best life possible, despite their sad start.
“We hope someday to see species such as lynx, wolves and potentially brown bears reintroduced to wild places around Britain, through the idea of rewilding.”
Wildwood Trust received worldwide acclaim for their rehabilitation of two brown bears, Fluff and Scruff, who were rescued in Bulgaria six years ago. They pair have recovered fully after suffering years of physical and mental trauma when they were held in an abandoned breeding facility under horrific conditions to be shot for ‘sport’.
It was as a result of its impressive reputation in this field that the charity was contacted to help provide a permanent woodland sanctuary for Mish and Lucy in April 2019. 
The siblings were held in a temporary enclosure in Belgium, but this was not suitable for their long term care. They were in a crucial phase of their lives, where they needed lots of enrichment and the chance to develop proper bear behaviour, which is much harder without their mum to teach them. 
They needed to explore, play and learn to forage naturally. And they had to be brought to the UK before winter made travelling harder. Wildwood Trust launched an appeal to raise £250,000 to build a new woodland bear sanctuary and transport the bears safely to Britain where they resided at the Trust’s Kent park until their Escot home was ready.
Vital funds are still needed to complete the bear’s forever home. Donations can be made on the campaign website or by calling the donation hotline: 01227 712111.
To visit Mish and Lucy at Wildwood Escot, head to www.devon.wildwoodtrust.org. Visitors will need to pre-book for park entrance and Bear experiences.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter