B.C. man under investigation for taking emaciated bear cub to wildlife centre
ANMORE, B.C. -- An Anmore retiree is under investigation for violations of the Wildlife Act after he took an emaciated bear cub from his neighbour’s backyard to a local wildlife centre.
Mike Robson says his wife reported the tiny black bear cub to the BC Conservation Officer Service Wednesday afternoon after their neighbour asked for help dealing with a cub her dog found huddling under a patio table.
“They refused to help it,” said Robson,
The man said he was outraged at the conservation officer’s response that they should wait a full day before calling back, with the possible outcome being an officer taking the cub to the nearby forest.
"It really needed help," he said. "There was no mother bear around and last night it was minus 2 degrees Celsius.”
Robson said the cub was the size of an average dog and didn’t have anything to eat.
“The bear had been by itself for 16 hours," he said. "No mother bear would leave a cub by itself."
He bundled the cub in a blanket and tucked it into a plastic bin to drive it to the Critter Care Wildlife Society in Langley. Shortly after he returned to his home late Thursday morning, CTV News Vancouver witnessed a conservation officer arrive and ask to see the bear. Instead, Robson told the officer he’d taken it to the wildlife centre.
“This is now an active investigation with offences that occurred under the Wildlife Act, so we'll be pursuing a full investigation into everything,” said responding officer Nicole Caithness. “The best course of action is to leave the bear and if it's still there in 24 hours then the COs would attend and decide the correct course of action to take, which could include relocating it a short distance away if we believe it's with a family unit or moving it to Critter Care or if it's in any distress letting it go on its way.”
Caithness said it’s standard procedure to monitor solo cubs for 24 to 48 hours to make sure they don’t wander back to their den or too far from their mother, who could be foraging.
"Any sort of intervention in these matters could potentially lead to habituation or just the separation of a family unit of bears, which is not the ideal outcome," she said.
"This wasn't the right thing to do"
The cub is now with Critter Care in Langley, with 27 other orphaned cubs the non-profit cares for as they’re fed, rehabilitated and ultimately released back into the wild by the BC Conservation Officer Service.
Senior animal care technician Nathan Wagstaffe told CTV News the male cub weighs only 20 pounds and should be between 70 and 80 pounds for a yearling; he suspects the cub's mother died some time ago and it’s been having trouble foraging its own food.
“He was probably born in January or February of last year, but bears have this amazing ability that when they don't have enough food, they stop growing," he said.
And while Wagstaffe believes the conservation service should’ve done a better job communicating the options and possible outcomes to the Robsons, while also being more clear that they would attend the scene, he says Robson was in the wrong.
“His heart was definitely in the right place but unfortunately his actions were not," Wagstaffe said. "We have to follow protocols the way they are. We can't have the general public just picking up orphan bear cubs."
Caithness says even though she wasn’t able to observe the bear, she doubts that euthanizing it would’ve been on the table, since it’s unlikely it had become used to people.
“Our response will vary based on the call and the specific circumstances and that's why we encourage the public to call us, because we are wildlife professionals – we've gone to school for this, we've trained extensively for this both on the job and at our academy, so we do know what we're doing in these situations,” she said. “We're not just going to show up and destroy an animal that has done nothing wrong."
But Robson says with more than 4,000 bears killed by conservation officers in the past eight years, he didn’t want to see this cub become another statistic. He’s prepared to face a potential fine and even jail time for moving the cub, despite being warned not to touch it.
"I think it's ridiculous,” said Robson. “All I was trying to do was help the bear.”