Rescued yearling grizzly cub returns to the wild near Cranbrook via BC pilot project
Littlefoot, a grizzly yearling, has been released back into the wild near Cranbrook, BC. He was found this spring severely underweight after being orphaned prior to hibernation last fall. After being cared for by the Northern Lights Wildlife Society (NLWS, www.wildlifeshelter.com) since June, Littlefoot has gone from a scrawny 28 pounds to a hearty 98 pounds. He was released yesterday away from human activity near where he was found. Littlefoot has been fitted with a satellite collar and will be monitored for the next 18 months.
The rescue, transport and release of orphaned grizzlies is part of a unique cooperative pilot project between the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org), the Northern Lights Wildlife Society, and the British Columbia Ministries of Environment, and Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
The pilot project is determining whether orphaned grizzlies can survive after release back into the wild. This is the sixth such release since the pilot project began in 2008, for a total of thirteen grizzlies released into the wild so far. Littlefoot is the first yearling that NLWS has prepared for release.
“When he came in, Littlefoot was older than most of the bears we receive for care,” said Angelika Langen of NLWS. “Because he had lost his mother last fall and hibernated by himself, he was in bad condition. Thankfully, the Ministry of the Environment allowed this bear into our care for a limited time period to give him a chance to gain weight so he could look after himself. We’ve picked a great release site for him away from people with a good berry crop out there, and I think he has a good chance of survival.”
IFAW has been supporting this pilot project since 2008. “We were thrilled to see the approval for a yearling cub to enter the rehabilitation process,” said Kelly Donithan, Animal Rescue Officer at IFAW. “Our wildlife rescue and rehabilitation pilot projects around the world have been providing evidence that animals can be rehabilitated from a young age and, upon release, not only survive but thrive in their natural habitat. We are excited to see how Littlefoot navigates his new lease on life and becomes a fully functioning wild bear.”
Human-bear conflict is an ongoing concern in British Columbia. For tips on how to reduce human-bear conflict, please visit wildsafebc.com.
Rehabilitating orphan bear cubs is viewed by IFAW as a more sustainable and humane alternative than killing the bears outright. Similar bear rehabilitation projects are being supported by IFAW in Russia and India.
About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information visit our website and follow us on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Photographs and video of the transport and release of the grizzly are available for media use, and spokespeople from IFAW and NLWS are available for interview.