Three orphaned grizzly bear cubs came into the care of the Greater Vancouver Zoo in Aldergrove this week, from the Calgary zoo after their mother was killed by hunters. (Greater Vancouver Zoo photo)

Three orphaned grizzly bear cubs came into the care of the Greater Vancouver Zoo in Aldergrove this week, from the Calgary zoo after their mother was killed by hunters. (Greater Vancouver Zoo photo)

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

Three orphaned grizzly cubs now on display at the privately-owned Greater Vancouver Zoo represent a disappearing opportunity for survival of a threatened species, says conservationists.

General manager of the zoo, Serge Lussier, said Wednesday, “There’s two options for bears so young when the mother dies is euthanasia, or find an approved zoo.”

The trio were found by Alberta Fish and Wildlife officers in Crowsnest Pass in April after their mother was killed by hunters.

They were sent for care away from the public at the Calgary Zoo, who ended up passing the responsibility to the Aldergrove zoo.

During that time, 104 signatories – many B.C. and Alberta scientists or conservationists – wrote a letter to the Alberta government, urging the rehabilitation and release of the cubs back into the wild, “given that grizzly bears are a threatened species in Alberta,” the letter reads.

More specifically, “the age and health of these three cubs make them ideal candidates for the only grizzly cub rehabilitation program in North America, namely the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter in Smithers, B.C.”

The Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resources sent an email statement to the Star, confirming the Smithers’ rehabilitation program was ruled out because it “is a pilot, and not considered operational.”

“Formal best management practices for the facility are in the process of being developed. These are critical to standardize facility construction, humane care and handling and proof of concept,” the statement continued.

Co-founder of the shelter, rehabilitationist Angelika Langen, has successfully released 22 bears into the wild during the 13 years the program has been in operation.

“Everyone says we are still in a pilot project and they are awaiting results, yet they don’t give us the cubs to prove it,” she remarked.

Of the three six-month-old grizzly cubs at Greater Vancouver Zoo – two of them are female.

“Our efforts to prove long-term [grizzly bear] survival and re-integration into the wild population would have made a big step forward with the females,” said Langen, noting their reproduction capabilities.

READ MORE: Aldergrove zoo reopens with masks, one-directional experience to tackle COVID-19

As it stands, in Alberta there are only 700 surviving grizzly bears, according to the Alberta Wilderness Association. This, compared to 15,000 most recently recorded in B.C. by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. 

Of 25 cubs government approved for the Northern Lights Wildlife project, only three were female, Langen emphasized.

B.C. bear researcher/biologist and letter signatory, Wayne McCrory, said the zoo’s one-acre enclosure is not nearly large enough to house the cubs for the rest of their lives.

“Bears are not social animals. They are very solitary individuals and like to have their own space,” said the grizzly bear researcher and biologist of 40 years.

“Typically, they range over very large areas, and that’s their freedom – that is their home.”

McCrory, also a director with the with the Valhalla Wilderness Committee, said that because the Calgary Zoo purposefully kept the cubs away from the public, they “have a good chance of being rehabilitated” and released back into Alberta wilderness.

READ MORE: Greater Vancouver Zoo animals suffer ‘boredom and frustration,’ humane society says

Greater Vancouver Zoo animal care manager, Menita Prasad, maintained that because the cubs are “human imprinted,” it is not ideal for them to be released into wild.

McCrory – with years of experience reducing human-bear conflict in Kananaskis Country, Alta. – said the zoo’s mission of educating Metro Vancouver’s public about the species is redundant, considering Grouse Mountain already “takes care of that with their two captive grizzly bears.”

“Ultimately, the zoo stands to profit by increased attendance from these captive bears,” McCrory said.

B.C. conservationist and director of Bears Matter, Barb Murray, along with other letter signatories, like McCrory, are in a race against time to see a bear rehabilitation expert examine the zoo’s new cubs to assess whether they are eligible for rehabilitation.

“We are prepared to pay the expert to fly in,” Murray said, “Six months isn’t that old.”

“Until we have a definitive answer from a bear expert it is a question mark we just can’t answer. Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,” she urged.

READ MORE: Aldergrove zoo announces free admission for frontline workers for the rest of 2020

The zoo in Aldergrove has previously been criticized for how it cares for its animals, particularly large species which have died in its care. 

Lussier, the zoo’s general manager, insisted the triplets are “adapting well to their new surroundings and are having fun discovering their new habitat.”

“We have the habitats, we have the experts, and were so proud to be a part of this,” he said.

AldergroveConservation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Residents of the Cowichan Valley decorated more than 55 vehicles with anti-racist slogans for a car rally in support of Cowichan Tribes on Saturday, January 24. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Dozens join anti-racism car rally and virtual panel in Cowichan Valley

Provincial ministry and BC Green caucus issue joint statement detailing concerns

Island Health is expected to begin public consultations soon on its controversial plans to open a new wellness and recovery centre at 5878 York Road. (File photo)
Public consultations on Duncan wellness and recovery centre coming in February

Controversial facility on York Road scheduled to open in June

Jerry Dyck plans to purchase a new RV to drive across Canada in, once it’s safe to travel again. (Courtesy BCLC)
Victoria man plans post-pandemic cross-Canada RV trip after $2M lottery win

Retired electrician bought the winning ticket in Duncan

Providence Health Care has teamed up with partners, including Island Health, to launch the first remote cochlear implant (CI) mapping program for adults in British Columbia. Duncan’s Alan Holt was one of the first to test it out. (Submitted)
Remote cochlear clinic offers shorter commute for patients like Duncan’s Alan Holt

Duncan man one of the first to test virtual mapping program

Larry Fiege, right, from Fiege’s Farm shows a rapt audience the old-fashioned way to tap a Bigleaf Maple during the Maple Syrup Festival at the BC Forest Discovery Centre Feb. 1 and 2, 2020. (Andrea Rondeau/Citizen)
Maple Syrup Festival in Duncan cancelled

The annual syrup festival is a popular event at the BC Forest Discovery Centre

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Jesse Savidant, 31, is wanted by the RCMP after failing to appear in provincial court in Nanaimo in December. Police warn Savidant should be considered violent. (Photo Submitted)
Warrant out for man accused of stolen property offences across Vancouver Island

Jesse Savidant did not appear for court date in Nanaimo last month, say RCMP

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is urging visitors to stay on designated trails after a hiker became injured in an unsanctioned area last week. (Westerly file photo)
Injured hiker rescued in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

Local musician and artist Daisy Melville created a watercolour portrait of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders from the recent American inauguration, and with help from her mom, is now selling t-shirts and more with funds going to the Comox Valley Food Bank. Image submitted
Island artist turns Sanders inauguration meme into art for good

All proceeds from the sale of shirts, sweaters and more will go to the Comox Valley Food Bank

Most Read