Open Letter to: Minister Katrine Conroy, FLNRORD

We have identified nine priorities on our website (bearalliance.com), all of which involve assisting the people of British Columbia to coexist with bears and share the same habitats. As a new organization with a wealth of collective expertise, experience and skill sets, we welcome an opportunity to learn how we can assist FLNRORD in addressing the need for improved animal care considerations. Our first priority is to address improvements to the rescue and release of orphaned bears.

Recommendations to improve rescue and release of orphaned bear cubs

The BC Bear Alliance (BCBA) was established to address key issues identified as challenges to human-bear coexistence and bear conservation, and present solutions to BC provincial and municipal governments or other stakeholders. We represent over 20 grass roots organizations from across BC that deliver bear smart education and help to advocate on behalf or BC’s black and grizzly bears.

We have identified nine priorities on our website (bearalliance.com), all of which involve assisting the people of British Columbia to coexist with bears and share the same habitats. As a new organization with a wealth of collective expertise, experience and skill sets, we welcome an opportunity to learn how we can assist FLNRORD in addressing the need for improved animal care considerations. Our first priority is to address improvements to the rescue and release of orphaned bears.

The BCBA recommends:

1. Enhanced COS training to include:
a) Non-dart capture methods of orphaned cubs, e.g., catch poles, small animal live traps, nets and in some cases, manually (by hand) when appropriate; or make low impact tranquilizing guns available to conservation officers. Appropriate bait training for capturing cubs to avoid upsetting the young bear’s digestive system and increasing the chance of capture.
b) Basic animal first aid training with an experienced bear vet to increase officers’ understanding of:
– administration of appropriate quantities of immobilization drugs, and learning what complications result from over-sedation;
– safe transportation of sedated cubs;
– assessment of cub for injuries and how to provide first aid on scene, if needed; and
– training to apply ear tags in a manner that minimizes the chance of infection and loss of ear tags; (i.e., hair removal prior to applying tag, disinfection, use of a punch and ear tag location training).
c) The commitment to capture and transfer cubs to wildlife rehabilitation centres as soon as possible if the mother bear is killed for any reason. (See Appendix A for the previously established policy)

2. Increased involvement of licenced wildlife rehabilitation centre, pre- and post-rehabilitation

a) Cub Capture
– Rescues to be completed by persons who are experienced with animal capture, such as staff from certified rehabilitation centres and/or appropriately trained Conservation Officers.

– Permits issued for licensed wildlife rehabilitation centres to perform rescue of orphaned bear cubs if trained Conservation Officers are unable to do so–or assist with the capture of cubs under 40lb–to support the safest capture methods and transportation.
Rationale: Cubs captured quickly experience less physical and mental trauma and make better candidates for rehabilitation. Rehabilitation staff are trained for this, whereas many CO’s do not have specific training, and often not the time.

– Extension of the age for young bears to qualify for rehabilitation up to 16 months
Rationale: Some orphaned cubs hibernate with insufficient body fat and emerge from the den early, underweight and starving. They only need a short time at a rehabilitation centre at the beginning of the season before they are healthy and ready for release in June with other cubs; another reason for a need for short-term, later care would be a den disturbance that has bears emerging before their time.
– All rescued cubs to be delivered to a rehabilitation centre (including grizzly cubs to Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter). Assessment of a rehabilitation candidate will be reserved for trained rehabilitation centre staff and their veterinarian who can work together on the health issues with appropriate treatment and medications. If a cub is ill or injured and a qualified wildlife veterinarian determines the candidate is not suitable for rehabilitation due to medical issues, the cub will be euthanized by the wildlife veterinarian. Rehabilitation centres will be responsible for veterinarian costs.
Rationale: 1. Bears are extremely resilient and have amazing recuperation abilities with time and good nutrition, and as such their suitability for rehabilitation is not necessarily based on size or state of health. In other words, their capture state doesn’t always translate into survivability, and within a few weeks they usually catch up to their same age counterparts. 2. It should also be considered that an orphaned bear cub that survived months on their own has proven to be resilient and capable, a trait that will do well in the genetic pool. 3. Many domestic veterinarians lack the knowledge to accurately assess wildlife.

– Media involvement in rescue attempts or at the rehabilitation centres to be strictly controlled.
Rationale: Unnecessary stress and exposure to humans other than trained caretakers can impede the safe rescue and rehabilitation of the bear cubs.

b) Yearling Releases to include wildlife rehabilitation centre staff in the following ways:
– To assist the COS or biologists in identifying quality wildlife habitat away from residential and recreational areas, including the consideration of flying them to remote areas to give them the best chance of survival – the cost to be born by rehabilitation facility.
– To release or participate in the release of yearlings to ensure it’s done with the best interest of the bears in mind.

Thank you for your attention to our recommendations. Please let us know the timeline for change.

Best regards,
Sylvia Dolson, Christine Miller, co-chairs
BC Bear Alliance