The future of two orphaned bear cubs depends on the Vicks VapoRub. Unable to find the mother of the tiny cubs that turned up this week in Plainfield Township, the state Game Commission on Thursday used the smelly ointment in an attempt to trick another mama bear into adopting them as her own.
''If this is successful, it will be the best possible outcome,'' said Kathy Uhler, director of the Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, which cared two days for the male and female cubs. Game Commission officers on Thursday located a mother bear in the Poconos for a possible adoption. This mama already had two cubs, but could handle four cubs easily, Uhler said.
The biggest obstacle to the adoption is that a mother bear normally rejects unrelated cubs, primarily because they smell like someone else's. That's where the VapoRub comes in. When the Vicks is rubbed on a stranger's cub, the camphor, eucalyptus oil and menthol vapors disorient a mother bear's senses so thoroughly that she won't notice the cub isn't her own. ''It covers the scent of the natural mother,'' Uhler explained. ''This is something that was pioneered in Pennsylvania, and we think this could be a happy ending to this story.''
On Tuesday afternoon, Game Commission officers tranquilized the big bear and collected the orphans from Uhler. Then they VapoRubbed the cubs and slipped them in with the mother's own cubs while mama slept. ''They want her to wake up and not see that the cubs are being pushed in,'' Uhler said. ''If she wakes up and the cubs are there, she might forget how many were there. It has worked in the past.'' The Game Commission will know within a few days whether the trick worked.