A bear cub found on Highway 1 near Boston Bar is now in rehabilitative care after a hit and run left it orphaned by its mother and, later, sibling.
Learning of the incident on Thursday through a Facebook post she was alerted to, Lydia Koot, founder of the Hope Mountain Black Bear Committee, says while the sow was hit on Wednesday, its twin cubs weren’t able to be rescued until Saturday.
“It was a stressful few days for those cubs, plus they’re so little already,” Koot said. “But we all had a part to play: we all seemed to be there at the right time to have the story (work out the best it could).”
It all began when somebody fatally hit a female black bear about 20 k.m. north of Boston Bar, and left her on the side of the road without alerting proper authorities, Koot explained. Sometime after that, passerby Ronnie Dean Harris drove past the bear and decided to do something: removing the carcass from the roadside, Harris was leaving a tobacco offering when he first saw the cubs, who were hiding in a nearby tree.
“I (saw) it was caught in something,” wrote Harris in a Facebook post on June 26. “It had hung itself by its neck on some sort of rubber cord that was wrapped around a branch.
“I chopped the cord from the tree and the cub fell lifeless to the ground. I picked it up and laid it on its side and pressed on its side calling for it to come back. After a couple of compressions it gasped and started to move around until coming to and running off.”
And although both cubs were eventually rescued, Koot said the resuscitated cub passed away for unknown reasons once in care.
So one of “the messages (to take away from this) is pick up your garbage!” she exclaimed. “Maybe if that rubber hadn’t have been in the tree, maybe this story would be different—who knows?
“And also, slow down on the roads,” she emphasized. “Accidents can always happen, but if you do hit an animal, do the right thing and call it in, do not just drive off.”
After finding the sow and her cubs, Harris explained in his Facebook post that he “called conservation and my Mum got ahold of a wildlife society to try to get someone to get the cubs,” however, Friday was the earliest a conservation officer could attend.
“We got the call Wednesday night (but) the quickest we could get somebody up there was Friday,” explained Sergeant Don Stahl, the conservation officer in charge of the Fraser Valley area all the way from White Rock to Boston Bar.
”I contacted Lydia (Koot) because (the Hope Mountain Black Bear Committee) has a couple of cub traps, and had recently caught an orphan cub in Lillooet.
“We made plans to meet at the site on Friday to set up the trap. On Saturday we got word there was a cub trapped.”
Wanting to continue to include Harris in the cubs’ rescue, Koot says she invited him to help in their relocation to a local rehabilitation centre.
“We met up with Ronnie, and when we stopped, the (cub that wasn’t trapped) ran down the hill and began trying to nurse on its dead mom. (And later we saw) the cub sleeping on the mom,” she said sadly.
Eventually trapping both cubs on Saturday morning, Koot says they got them into a dog kennel and they were transported to an animal centre that will take care of them until they’re ready to be released back into the wild.
“Our staff went up there and … transported the two orphan cubs to Critter Care (in Langley),” Stahl said. “One has unfortunately passed away.”
But so far, the other cub is doing well, and as long as he continues in good health and displays natural behaviours, at this time next year, he’ll be released in the area he was found—albeit much further from the highway.
“Luckily a lot of the stuff bears need to know is just instinct,” explained Breanne Glinnum, senior animal care supervisor at Critter Care Wildlife Society, which is one of four bear rehabilitation centres in British Columbia.
“And we always end up getting multiple bears in care, and they learn from each other. We keep their human contact to a bare minimum,” she continued, not missing the humor in her words.
“We don’t want them to get used to food coming from people. We hide their food to challenge them, and have a permit for live trout, so we have large pools to teach them how to fish. (These aren’t zoo bears), we make them work for their food. (Our focus is) teaching natural behaviours without having to teach them.
“But we wouldn’t release a bear if it wasn’t showing natural behaviours (necessary for survival on their own),” Glinnum continued.
And survive they do. Glinnum says in the almost five years she’s been with the Society, “we’ve never had one of our bears reported back to us (as being destroyed for being a problem bear), and one bear was reported shot by a hunter three years after its release, and that was all the way into Washington.
“But that’s just being part of being a wild bear—getting through the hunting season.”
So while the surviving cub Koot, Harris, and a team of conservation officers rescued won’t have a typical bear upbringing, Glinnum says it won’t be so unusual as to harm the bear’s chances for survival once released.
“It was just a perfect (example of) teamwork,” Koot said. “We all worked together—the First Nations, the conservation officers, the volunteers—to save those cubs’ lives. We were all well-intentioned and our only goal was doing best by the cubs, which doesn’t always happen.”