After several sightings of an impaired bear cub near Heffley Lake, the community was successful in locating the cub and it was sent to the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter (NLWS) in Smithers, B.C. But unfortunately, the bear was in bad condition upon arrival at the shelter and was euthanized to prevent further suffering.
“It is very rare that we must euthanize a cub and it is always a very hard decision,” said Angelika Langen, NLWS manager and co-founder. “We are grateful to the reporting residents and Kamloops [Conservation Officer Services] for assisting in this matter and giving us the opportunity to help this poor animal and prevent further suffering.”
Stg. Mike Sanderson of the Conservation Officer Service said they received the first report of this bear cub a few weeks ago, with concern about its peculiar behavior. As they continued to receive reports, Sanderson became worried about the cub’s health and ability to survive on its own.
“We thought it may be impaired as a result of consuming fermented fruits or berries,” said Sanderson. “Then we became concerned that maybe it was acting this way as a result of perhaps an infection or something, as it appeared to be something that continued to be persistent.”
Sanderson contacted NLWS to arrange the bear to be taken there. The shelter then sent out Lydia Koot, the founder of the Hope Mountain Blackbear Committee, to assist in capturing the bear. When Koot went to set traps, she found the cub tangled in some fencing.
Sanderson was able to get the bear into a crate to assess it. Wildlife veterinarian Fergus Alexander from the BC Wildlife Park also came to evaluate the cub.
“The main concerns we had was that it appeared to have some neurological challenges with walking in terms of balance,” said Sanderson. “Him and I were trying to decide whether it was the best humane thing to do is to send it on to the rescue or to make the difficult decision to euthanize it based upon, you know, it’s concerning condition and behavior.”
They eventually decided to give the bear a chance in the hopes it wouldn’t endure harm or suffering on the way to the shelter.
“The tricky thing about assessing bears this time of year is they get lethargic because they get ready for denning, so they’re lethargy could be a natural circumstance that’s happening in their body,” said Sanderson.
Sanderson decided that NLWS would at least be able to assess the bear in a controlled environment to get a better sense of its neurological condition.
When the cub arrived at the shelter, it was sedated and assessed by wildlife veterinarian Helen Schwantje, who made the decision that it was in the bear’s best interest to be euthanized.
Behind the scenes, many Sun Peaks and Heffley Valley community members were involved in locating the bear.
Local physiotherapist Kim Grunling was instrumental in making sure the bear was found. Upon hearing the conservation office had received quite a few reports, Grunling posted in a local Facebook group to let people know they should continue to report the bear if they see it.
Over the few days after that, Grunling received support in locating the bear and keeping an eye on it from several members of the community.
“It’s a community effort for sure,” said Grunling. “Really puts an emphasis on how as a community we can make a difference.”
In 2017, Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality was working towards becoming Bear Smart Certified. It was an effort that took place for over a year, but has not yet been completed.
After a family of bears had to be destroyed earlier in the season, and now the bear cub being euthanized, Grunling said that she hopes to get a Bear Smart Committee together again. Herself and two other community members, Catharine Adams and Irene Kastner, will work alongside Sanderson and to raise more awareness before the next bear season.
“We can’t do it ourselves. We are going to need community support and community voices,” said Grunling.
In the meantime, Langen from NLWS wants to remind residents to manage their attractants and to report any ill-looking bear cubs. Langen said healthy bears will soon disappear for hibernation, but all other cubs can only be considered for rehabilitation if they are not feeding on human provided food.