Steve Hubrecht/Columbia Valley Pioneer
Two grizzly bear cubs orphaned when their mother was struck and killed by a vehicle on the highway near Canal Flats have successfully been transfered to a bear rehabilitation centre in Smithers.
"It's a sad story with a happy ending," said local conservation officer Greg Kruger, speaking to the fact that the cubs were taken in by the Northern Lights Wildlife Society, which is the only wildlife shelter in the province legally allowed to rehabilitate bears.
Conservation officers received reports on the afternoon of Saturday, October 11, of bear cub sightings on Highway 93/95 a few kilometres north of Canal Flats at a spot where the highway passes through some wetlands. When they got to the spot, the officers found the two cubs and the mother's body.
"We think the mother had been dead for some time, probably almost two days," said Mr. Kruger, adding that one of the residents who called the conservation officers said the cubs had been coming into her yard on their own to eat apples from an apple tree for about a day and a half.
"It's unfortunate. Bears, and grizzlies especially, form close family units. That's why the cubs kept coming back to their mother," said Mr. Kruger.
He said the thick bush on the side of the road meant people going by in vehicles saw the cubs, but not the mother.
The officers tranquilized the bear cubs — one male and one female, both born this year — and took them back to a warm storage area in the District of Invermere's municipal government yard, where the cubs were given apples and water. The next day (Sunday, October 12th) the conservation officers drove to meet the members of the Northern Lights Wildlife Society in Donald (north of Golden), where the bears were transferred to the society and then driven to the centre in Smithers.
"It's quite far away, but it's the only licensed bear rehabilitation centre in B.C.," said Mr. Kruger. "The goal is for them to over-winter at the rehabilitation facility. They would not have been able to survive on their own at this stage of their lives. Once they're old enough and able to survive on their own, they'll be relocated back down to this area, probably next spring or early summer."
Mr. Kruger reminds drivers to slow down, allowing enough time to avoid hitting wildlife on the road. To learn more about Northern Lights, visit www.wildlifeshelter.com.