Incline Village cub finds home with Animal Ark | NevadaAppeal.com
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Incline Village cub finds home with Animal Ark

Jack Carrerow

INCLINE VILLAGE – Like a lot of people, Aaron and Diana Hiibel have a passion for animals. But unlike a lot of people, they have turned that passion into a refuge: 38 acres north of Reno known as Animal Ark.

When Nevada Department of Wildlife bear expert Carl Lackey trapped an orphaned black bear cub recently in Incline Village, the Hiibels took the animal in for rehabilitation and care.

“We started taking in bears in the early ’90s,” Diana Hiibel said. “Carl knows he can count on us to help, and calls us when he expects a capture.”

Hiibel said the Incline Village bear will spend a few days at the Ark before being released somewhere away from a populated area. She says that for now, the 112-pound male keeps to himself and out of sight in his den.

“That’s a good sign that he doesn’t care for people. That will keep him out of trouble in the future,” Hiibel said.

Although the Incline cub will soon taste freedom, the same can’t be said for the other two black bears at the Ark, Amy and Yogi.

“Amy was released once, but she couldn’t adapt,” Hiibel said. “She liked people too much. Yogi’s 17 years old, and we saved him from being euthanized. These two are permanent residents.”

According to Hiibel, the couple tries to keep things interesting for the bears, even at feeding time.

“We don’t just throw the food in there,” she said. “We hide it in various places in order to make them use their senses and instincts. They definitely have to work for it, and it keeps them from getting bored.”

Amy and Yogi share the Ark with two Bengal tigers, a rare white tiger, several varieties of foxes, box tortoises, a mountain lion, a lynx, a bobcat, a pair of cheetahs and several species of birds.

“This not a zoo. We are a refuge for sick, displaced or injured animals,” Hiibel stressed.

She said that while she and her husband had very little education when it came to caring for the animals, a lot of research and a love for animals got them through the early stages of the 22-year-old refuge.

“This was definitely a case of on-the-job-training,” Diana Hiibel joked.

“We are constantly applying for grants, soliciting for donations, anything to get people’s help,” she said.

“It’s an expensive operation, and we rely heavily on volunteer work. (Volunteers) are the core of our existence.”

Though the Ark gains revenue from April to October when it is open to the public, Hiibel said the winter months are always a struggle.

“There’s no power up here, and we only get two channels on the TV,” Hiibel said. “We have no source of income during this period, and we rely heavily on donations and the adoption program.”

The program allows individuals, families or organizations to contribute to the care and feeding of the animal of their choice.

“It’s kind of unique to give someone a snow leopard for Christmas,” Hiibel said. “It will really help us help the animals.”