Conservation Service Officers in Grand Forks are considering Wildlife act charges after two bear cubs were recently taken from a logging road north of the city.
Conservation officer Mark Walkosky said the cubs, now at an accredited wildlife facility, would likely be with their mother had it not been for the well-intentioned but misguided actions of a man who took the bears from their natural habitat. They would likely have a poor chance of survival if they were returned to the wild, he said.
The roughly 50-day-old male black bears were spotted on March 24, after Walkosky and forest ministry biologists believe road work disturbed the bears’ den, roughly 23 kilometres up Lynch Creek forest service road. Thinking the cubs had been abandoned, Waslkosky said the road crew waited for roughly two hours for the mother bear to return. When the sow didn’t turn up, Walkosky said a crew member drove the cubs to his motel in Grand Forks, where the animals spent the night.
Walkosky soon met the man and the animals at the motel, following a report to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline. Fresh tracks left at the den site the next morning suggested that the mother bear and a third cub had come back overnight. Walkosky explained that mother bears are known to leave their cubs alone for up to a day at a time, repeatedly stressing that only qualified professionals should approach wild animals, regardless of age.
Watching from trail cameras left at the scene, Conservation and forest ministry biologists then left the cubs near their den for around 48 hours, hoping the mother bear would come back again. She didn’t.
The bears have been put in the care of the Northern Lights Wildlife Society in Smithers, where co-founder and manager Angelika Langen said they are happily putting on weight. The bears will be re-introduced to the wild next June, likely near where they were found, she said.
Langen said she was hopeful that the bears would re-adjust to the wild, but Walkosky was less optimistic.
“They’ll never have the chance to be bears,” he said, adding, “They won’t get trained by a mom about where to find food and security in the forest.”
Re-introduced bears can make it in the wild but their chances of survival are generally much lower than bears who grow up with their moms, he noted.
Walksoksy also warned that approaching wild bear cubs can be very dangerous.
“If someone decides that they want to handle a bear cub, there’s always the very real possibility that the sow is nearby, watching,” he said.
Mother bears won’t hesitate to maul humans they perceive as threatening their cubs, which Walkosky said has killed people in the past.
The man who took the bears fully cooperated with investigators, but could face a $230 fine for unlawful possession of wildlife under the provincial Wildlife act.
The Conservation Service Office strongly recommends that people leave wildlife well enough alone. Anyone who thinks they may have come across an animal in distress is asked to call the 24-hour RAPP hotline at 1-877-952-7277.
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