Giving orphaned grizzly bears a second chance in British Columbia

One of the orphaned grizzly cubs on his way back to the wilderness.It’s almost summertime in Canada, and that means one thing for the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Grizzly Bear Pilot Project in British Columbia – bear release season!

This year, three orphaned grizzly bear cubs were rescued and rehabilitated by our partner Northern Lights Wildlife Society (NLWS). 

Terry and Blair were orphaned in October when their mother was shot. Little Tika was found weak and wandering all by himself in January. It is now six months later, and the three cubs are ready to get back out to the wilderness where they belong. 

Before each release, it is essential to reach out to the communities and answer any questions they have about the project. The instances of grizzly cubs being orphaned can be reduced by educating communities on how to prevent human-bear conflicts.

For those people who live in bear habitat it means securing garbage, using electric fences, and being conscious of natural bear foods, bedding areas, and travel routes. Being bear-aware ensures that these animals stay alive and wild. 

I knew that this was going to be an interesting trip when one of the first items on my to-do list was to call Air Canada to inquire if I might bring a tranquilizer gun with me as checked baggage. You see, IFAW has been hoping to find a way to get this much needed resource into Angelika’s hands (literally!) 

Angelika and I met in Nakusp. Located two hours from the airport in Castlegar, the drive to Nakusp was both inspiring and impressive. With only one radio station (at best!) to keep me company on the drive, I found myself thinking about this project and how it has ensured that the grizzly cubs would soon be roaming free amongst the rugged beauty of the Kootenays.   

After handing over the tranquilizer gun to a grateful Angelika, we met with members of the community.  Angelika explained how the bears will travel by road from the NLWS rehab facility located in Smithers inside individual culvert traps.  

Each cub is fitted with a satellite collar that will track their activities for the next 18 months. The data collected is rich with information and will be analyzed to provide information about their daily movements, range and feeding habits.   By the time the bears reach the release location they are ready to go.

When the traps open up, the bears bound with hardly a look back to the people who cared for them over the last few months. The team is out in the field now as Terry and Blair are being released this week. Tika will be released in the Golden area at the end of the month.  

Since 2007, IFAW and NLWS have been partnering on this unique pilot project to assess if orphaned grizzly bear cubs can be reared in captivity and released back to their home range.

So far, eight cubs have been released in the last five years. This pilot project is the only one of its kind in Canada and is significant as grizzly bears are facing increasing threats in British Columbia ranging from habitat loss to conflict with humans.

IFAW is proud to be part of this project to give orphaned bear cubs a second chance to live amongst the majestic mountains of the Kootenays. It is with thanks to the generous support of our donors that we are able to continue to fund this important work.

--PZ

Your support is critical for this project's success.

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Experts

Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Dr. Ian Robinson, Vice President, Programs & Int'l Operations
Vice President, Programs & Int'l Operations
IFAW Veterinarian
Gail A'Brunzo, IFAW Wildlife Rescue Manager
Wildlife Rescue Manager, IFAW HQ
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Katie Moore, Program Director, Animal Rescue
Program Director, Animal Rescue
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia