LYNNWOOD, Wash. -- Like you might expect, the kids are wailing, groaning, grumbling about their doctor's checkup.
Fortunately for the clinic's employees, the "kids" only weigh 15 pounds or so and it just takes a little anesthesia to knock them out.
One day, though, these three black bear cubs may not be so easy to handle.
But at PAWS Wildlife Clinic in Lynnwood, Wash., they're counting on it.
"They're going to wrestle with each other, build strength, socialize, and they'll help condition each other for release," said naturalist Kevin Mack.
The cubs are all about five months old, and will have to stay at the shelter before they are released, either this winter or next summer.
All three are orphans. Two brothers were brought from Oregon after their mother was struck and killed by a car on a highway near Corvallis. A female cub was found in Hoodsport, Wash., when she wandered up to campers. State fish and wildlife agents could not find the mother.
"All three of these little ones came in and they were a bit anemic, so we'll be taking a blood sample," said veterinarian Dr. John Huckabee.
Without mother bears to raise the young ones, it's up to the humans at PAWS to teach the cubs how to survive in the wild.
"Much of their ability to find food depends on their ability to forage well," said Dr. Huckabee.
"Their cages are equipped with rotting logs and mealworms so the bears can pull them apart," Mack said. Workers place food all over the cages, and when they get old enough, they can fish out of artificial pools.
All that, and the cubs rarely, if ever, see their humans teachers.
"We don't have any unnecessary contact with the bears," said Mack, who adds that what contact they do have conditions the bears to shy away from humans, "anesthetizing them, drawing blood, so they associate bad things with us."
The same is true with the summer release, which includes yelling, shooting stinging bean bag rounds at the bears, and sending Corellian bear dogs after them.
Despite the sad backgrounds of the three cubs at PAWS, animal experts are hopeful because there's one thing these kids have going for them.
"Fortunately we have these three that will grow up together," said Dr. Huckabee. "They've been playing well with each other, a lot of rough-and-tumble playing as bear cubs tend to do."
The cubs are the 61st, 62nd, and 63rd orphaned bears taken in by PAWS, said Mack, who added that so far, the bears they've released have had no further problems between bears and humans.