Pilot Program Sees Four Grizzly Cubs Return to the Wild
Lori, Dean, Drew and Jason, the four grizzly bear cubs that were successfully rescued from the Bella Coola, B.C. area last fall after their mothers were killed will be released back to the wild tomorrow.
Things are ramping up quickly now and excitement is mounting in anticipation of the release of the bears into the wilderness of Bella Coola, B.C. Experts are en route to assist our partner, Northern Lights Wildlife Society (NLWS) in Smithers, B.C. where founders Peter and Angelika Langen have done an amazing job of rearing the cubs.
Rearing grizzlies for release back into the wild is all about encouraging natural behavior and providing natural foods. This time of year the staff provides branches and saplings for the bears to strip leaves from and chew on the bark.
They seem to prefer Poplar which is fine but staff comes back from the woods covered with sticky sap. Several times a day Peter cuts from a field to provide them with things the bears would find in the wild such as dandelions and other grasses. They’ve also been fed salmon, meats and other foods that they would find in a natural environment.
January through the beginning of April the bears hibernated with intermittent rousing, which is normal for grizzlies – especially dependent upon available food sources in the winter. But when the bears awake in the spring they need to be mentally entertained so they don’t develop nervous behaviors which wouldn’t benefit them in the wild, such as pacing and head swinging.
Peter and Angelika hide food in the enclosure to simulate the bears having to find food in the wild. Piles of wood placed in the enclosure are moved and shifted by the bears in a team effort to get them just so.
Lori is a real character. When she decides to take a dip in the water pond she won’t share with the “boys” and will chase them out.
When she’s finished, then the boys can have a turn. And when Peter puts fresh straw in her cubby, she will give Peter a dirty look, drag it all out and replace it in the way she wants it.
And so early tomorrow morning the bears will be sedated and receive a pre-release health exam. The bears will be fitted with custom satellite collars so we can track their movements. Then begins the 12 hour drive to the staging area in Bella Coola and then continue on to the release area within the traditional territory of the Wuikinuxy First Nation, who supports the release of the cubs and their monitoring with their territory.
All the staff at NLWS and IFAW all the wish the cubs well in their new homes. :)
This pilot project is a cooperative effort between the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Northern Lights Wildlife Society, the British Columbia Ministries of Environment and Forest, Lands and National Resource Operations. The pilot will study whether releasing orphaned grizzlies is viable.