An orphaned, yearling grizzly dubbed Littlefoot is once again wandering free in the wilds of southeastern British Columbia, saved by a unique pilot project between the province and two animal welfare groups.
The little bear weighed just under 13 kilograms when he was found in the spring after hibernating alone, following the death of his mother last fall.
Although older than most bears accepted by the Northern Lights Wildlife Society in Smithers, officials in the ministries of environment and forests agreed the bruin could receive care for a short period, and he had grown to a healthy 44 kilograms before being released Tuesday.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) captured Littlefoot, transported him to the society and arranged his release in a berry-rich site close to where he was found, but far from humans.
Thirteen grizzlies have been released since 2008, when the pilot project began, but Littlefoot is the first yearling given a new chance at life, and he will wear a satellite collar for 18 months so his progress can be tracked.
The project is meant to determine whether orphaned grizzlies can survive after being released back into the wild, and similar rehabilitation projects are supported by the IFAW in Russia and India.