By mid-December the snow has fallen, folks are running around doing their Christmas shopping, and bears across the country are tucked away in their dens hibernating. But one little grizzly bear was not so fortunate.
On Dec. 12 conservation officer Justyn Bell received a call of a sighting of the little cub on Mitchell Road in Parson. For the next six days, Bell would receive several calls from four different complainants as people in the area were deeply concerned for the bear’s welfare. The cub had been consistently moving north.
“I received a phone call on the 16th stating that the bear had been on this person’s property since the afternoon of the 15th… The bear had been feeding on a deer carcus that was at the top edge of the property, and had been constantly coming back,” said Bell.
No traps had been set up because the bear had been on the move. But now that there was a reason for her to return to the same place, Bell was confident she would come back.
“I came back (on Dec. 17) and just sat on the trap to see if the bear would return, and it did at about 3 p.m. I was able to tranquilize it,” he said.
The bear was not found in good condition.
“It was very undersized, even for a cub of the year, and very malnourished,” said Bell. “We’re happy that folks called to let us know, and also that they’re not trying to take it into their own hands, that they leave it to us to make the rescue efforts.”
In the past, there was little conservation officers could do for bears like this. Quite often their only options were to let nature take its course, or actually intervene and end the bear’s suffering.
But a pilot project between the B.C. government and a facility in Smithers has given this little cub a chance at survival. Northern Lights Wildlife Society came to Golden to pick up the cub on Dec. 19.
“We especially get called for grizzly bears because there is a pilot project we are conducting with the government. We’re the only facility at this point that is doing rehab for grizzly bears. Not that there’s tons of them, but whenever there is we’re the one’s that get them,” said Angelika Langen, who founded and runs the society with her husband Peter.
“And through this project we’re trying to determine whether or not it’s feasible to rehabilitate young grizzly bears, and if they’ll fit back into their natural habitat.”
Their plan was to bring the bear back to their facility in Smithers, but her condition was cause for concern.
“Right now this bear is touch and go. Her body condition is poor, and she’s very small, very emaciated. I would say we need at least a week before we can say if she’ll get better,” she said. “A lot of it is up to her right now, and how much resilience she has. And bears are really good at that.”
Bell said that there is no indication of what happened to the cub’s mother, but that it’s clear she’s been on her own for quite a while to get into such poor condition. Bear’s instinctively know if they have enough body weight to survive the winter, which is why the cub was not hibernating.
“We’re hoping for a good outcome. And if it is, you will see us back here in the spring to bring her back and let her go in a better condition,” said Langen.
“The local people involved were very good. I would like to thank them hugely for helping the bear. She’ll have a chance now,” said Wendy Chambers, a local volunteer with Northern Lights who helped co-ordinate the pick-up.
Chambers wanted to send a special thank you to Bell for the considerable amount of time he put in rescuing the bear, all the locals who called in sightings, and the Cedar House for putting the Langens up for the night.
“People can donate, and it’s very important to help with this bear’s survival,” said Chambers.
“People in Golden will be able to follow her story on the Northern Lights webpage and Facebook site.”
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort has donated $250 to the group on behalf of Boo the Bear. This rescue effort has even caught some national attention. Else Poulson, president of the international organization Bear Care and author of the book Smiling Bears, has donated $500 after hearing about the Golden cub from Chambers.
To donate or follow the story of the grizzly cub, go to www.wildlifeshelter.com. And to report a local bear siting, call 1-877-952-7277.
Editor’s Note: At the time of publication the cub had arrived in Smithers, and was awake and eating.