It turns out bears really do love honey.
Conservation Officer Alex Desjardins saw proof of that when he took care of an orphaned first year grizzly cub over the weekend. The young bear was under sedation after being discovered near Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. That is, until Desjardins presented him with his favourite treat.
“As soon as he saw the honey, he ate it right up,” Desjardins said.
The grizzly was discovered by a resident near the resort on Dec. 5. Desjardins was called to the scene (he thanked the resident for their swift action) and delivered a sedative by hand before transporting him back to his residence in town.
“He was so weakened that he didn’t move much so we were able to tranquilize him pretty easily,” Desjardins explained. “Due to the condition of the bear, he was out for about five hours.”
Severely underweight at what Desjardins estimates to be 25 pounds – a grizzly of his age should be pushing 70 – Desjardins fed him oatmeal, honey and a variety of berries over the next couple days. He believes the young cub would have only lasted a few more days in the wild, a sentiment that was also expressed by Peter and Angelika Langen of the Northern Lights Wildlife Society.
“He’s very weak,” Peter said. “He was really at the end of the line.”
Desjardins called the Langens – who later commended him for his work with the bear – when the cub was discovered. They made the lengthy trip from their home in Smithers over the weekend, arriving in Golden in the afternoon on Dec. 8.
The Langens have been rescuing grizzly bears since 2007 (though their shelter has been in operation since 1989).
Under Desjardins’ care, the bear had urinated several times and defecated at least once, a very positive sign for his recovery, as it shows his organs are continuing to operate despite his weakened condition.
Angelika says a full recovery will take some time, but hopes to have him ready for release by the end of the spring or in the early part of the summer.
“(The bear) will be fitted with a satellite radio collar and we will be following and monitoring his success once he is back out in the wild,” Angelika said.
“I would like to see him at least 200 or 250 pounds (before release).”
As for the orphan’s chances of survival when re-introduced to the wild, results have shown that much of a bear’s behaviours and skills are instinctual rather than learned, especially when it comes to building dens.
“We found the den of a female in the Bella Coola area and it was just amazing. The wildlife biologist we had with us at the time was just so excited about the perfect positioning of the den site and everything else,” she said.
If all goes according to plan, the grizzly will be released into the wild in a remote location, but near Golden.
As for the grizzly’s name? Desjardins left that for someone else.
“He’s named Valentine. It was my niece’s birthday on December 6 and all week I couldn’t figure out what to get her,” he said of his 14 year-old niece who lives in Quebec. “When I rescued that cub it clicked that I would get her to name it.”
“I asked her why she named him Valentine, and she said because it works in French and in English.”