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Bear cubs make road trip

A pair of tiny orphaned bear cubs are alive and in a northwest BC rehabilitation centre thanks to the collective efforts of some hikers, dirt bikers, nature photographers and wildlife experts.

The cubs were spotted Sunday, apparently abandoned by their mother, on a rural road outside the southeast BC community of Cranbrook by local resident Stephanie McGregor, her husband and some of their friends who had been out hiking.

The cubs are now safe and recovering at the Northern Lights Wildlife Society shelter in Smithers, after a 1,250-kilometre road trip that took them from Cranbrook to Jasper, Alta., and then back into BC to the shelter for bears.

McGregor said she is astounded by the effort that went into saving the cubs.

"We couldn't believe how everyone came together for these bears," she said. "It's so amazing."

When they first saw the cubs, they wanted to stay away, but the animals were so small and nobody could see their mother, she said.

So the hikers sat in their vehicles and waited, only to be approached by a group of dirt bikers, some of whom said they'd seen the cubs the day before and asked if the animals were still there.

McGregor said she called the Conservation Officer Service, but got a hotline, so she called her friend Colleen Bailey, an experienced animal rescuer.

Bailey immediately contacted the Northern Lights Wildlife Society in Smithers, on the opposite side of B.C.

The shelter did have room but wanted to make sure the bears were orphaned.

Then some tourists from Ohio, who'd come to take photos of hummingbirds, arrived on the scene and set up their tripods, said McGregor.

"There was just no way that momma was around with these people hanging around," she said. "We called back to the shelter and she gave us word to capture them."

McGregor said the shelter contacted the Conservation Officer Service and all the proper authorities and they confirmed the mother had died.

Bailey donned some heavy gloves and protected her arms with a heavy jacket.

"I walked up and they were weak enough that I could approach them and grab them," said Bailey.

She said the first cub tried to climb a tree, but was weak and fell back. Bailey said she caught it and put it in a portable kennel.

The second cub got farther up a tree, but Bailey said she grabbed it by its bottom.

The group drove back to Bailey's house, where they weighed and fed the bears.

A veterinarian arrived, gave the cubs vitamin shots and assessed their health. The bears were found to be dehydrated, starving, but in good enough shape to travel.

A flight couldn't be arranged so McGregor and Bailey drove the bears to Golden, on Monday. There they met Wendy Chambers, a Northern Lights volunteer, who drove the bears to Jasper.

Chambers was met in Jasper by members of the Northern Lights Wildlife Society who drove them almost 750 kilometres west to Smithers.

McGregor said the bears will be rehabilitated and then hopefully released back into the wild.

The Canadian Press

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