Alberta government needs better approach to orphaned bear cubs
Thursday, Apr 20, 2017 06:00 am
Dear Editor: I am writing to express my concerns and amazement with the bureaucrats of the Alberta Government for their shameful and uncaring behavior in the recent situation with the three black bear cubs from Banff.
I am a director of the Cochrane Ecological Institute, a facility has had a long record on the rehabilitation and release of orphaned black bear cubs in Alberta (1985 to 2011). In 2010, the government of Alberta decided it was a bad idea to rehabilitate black bear cubs and instead they basically killed them if they were turned over to them. We were not permitted to accept them under our permit. Over the last seven years the Government has killed 100s of orphaned black bear cubs.
Now to the recent incident with the three cubs found in Banff, let me remind everyone that these were Federal Government property and the Alberta government did not have direct access to them, or they too would have been killed as well.
First Banff National Park tried to place them in Smithers, B.C. This was not permitted by the B.C. government even though the facility chosen by Parks Canada met all the criteria. I strongly suspect it was not permitted because B.C. did not want to become a dumping ground for orphaned Alberta black bear cubs.
Cochrane Ecological Institute offered our facility for the bears, but we are not permitted to take them. The Alberta government could have assisted by providing us with a temporary shelter permit that would have allowed us to take and rehabilitate the bear cubs for a specified period of time. This was done for us in 2011 to cover four bear cubs at our facility, as well as two lynx. This is a simple process that would have taken a few minutes and brought praise to the Alberta government for their humane attitude and their assistance to the park.
Finally the park found a place for the bear cubs in Ontario. The facility met all the criteria but was over 3,000 kilometres away. In the end, Parks Canada had to drive the cubs to Kamloops, B.C. so they could be flown to Ontario.
My suggestion is that the Alberta government was so fixed in their Neolithic ideas about bear cubs that they would not give Banff National Park a transport permit to move the bears from Banff to the Calgary airport. As a friend of mine has said: “You really could not make this up, it is too stupid.”
The good news is that the bear cubs are now in Ontario and doing well, they will be well cared for and brought back to Banff for release; another trip of 3,000 kilometres. The federal government will have to pay for both these flights when the cubs could have been driven 130 km to the Cochrane Ecological Institute.
Here are a few facts about the rehabilitation of black bear cubs that people should know:
• All the scientific papers that have come out on the subject in the past five years conclude rehabilitation and release of black bear cubs is “a sound management option.”
• The government, at the federal and provincial level, does not pays one cent towards the rehabilitation of wildlife.
• The Cochrane Ecological Institute has the facility, the experience and the expertise to rehabilitate black bear cubs, but are not permitted to by the Alberta government.
• Rehabilitated and released black bear cubs have a higher survival rate and the same or less of a probability to have a human interaction that wild reared cubs.
• No government in Canada has ever been held responsibility (successfully sued) for a black bear attack.
• The last survey of the black bear population in Alberta was done in the early 1990, and it is our educated opinion that the population has been reduced significantly since then.
It would be good for the people of Alberta to request the government to change their approach to black bear management before groups like PETA or WSPA embarrass them into changing.
We tend to pride ourselves, as Albertans, on our wilderness and wildlife; too bad the government does not respect it or try to protect it.
Ken Weagle, Director
Cochrane Ecological Institute