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Grizzly Project

Goals and history

Pilot Project Outline

In the spring of 2007 the BC Government (as the first government in the world) signed an agreement with the Northern Lights Wildlife Society and IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), to consider orphaned grizzly bear cubs for a pilot rehabilitation program.

Though grizzly cubs had been raised and released in BC before (2 female cubs by Hillspring Wildlife Rehab Centre in Dawson Creek in 1999, 4 cubs by Hillspring Wildlife Rehab Centre in Dawson Creek in 2006 and 1 cub by Helen Jameson near Nelson in 2006) official acceptance of this practice was lacking, as no post release monitoring was done to prove that cubs survived and integrated into the wild population. Two of the cubs released by Hillspring had in fact become nuisance bears, breaking into campers and had to be euthanized. As this happens with wild bears too, it is not a reflection on Hillspring’s program, but remained a worrisome fact in the planning process.

NLWS with the support from IFAW had been in negotiation with the BC Government for some time and before this pilot project was approved.

Project Goals:

  • To provide orphaned cubs with a safe and species oriented environment to grow up, until they are old enough to be released back into the wild.
  • It was agreed that cubs would be kept for up to 18 month, as data proved that yearling cubs in good condition have a very good survival chance despite the fact that they usually stay with their mother for at least 2 years.
  • To monitor cubs after the release to answer questions in regards to their survival rate, possible human/bear conflict situations and their ability to fit into the wild population. We use state of the art GPS/VHF collars that allow us to monitor the released cubs via our computer in almost real time.
  • To gather valuable information about grizzly behavior, nutritional needs, medical treatment and facility requirements.
  • The results of the project are to be used as a future foundation to create sustainable rehabilitation standards for grizzly cubs.

Pilot Project history:

  • 2014 December male cub admitted (Valentine) from Golden area, mothers fate unknown
  • 2014 November male and female cub admitted( Kitty & Matt) from Kitimat area, mother shot at popular fishing spot
  • 2014 November male and female cub admitted (Sari &Tom) from Canal Flats area, mother killed on highway
  • 2014 June male yearling cub admitted (Littlefoot)from Fernie area suspected mother shot in self-defence
  • 2012 December male cub admitted (Tika) from Golden area Seriously undernourished found in someone’s garden shed
  • 2012 October two male siblings admitted (Terry & Blair) from Castlegar area mother shot after repeatedly raiding chicken coups
  • 2012 September Collar retrieval
  • 2010 October two female and male siblings admitted (Lori, Elli & Dean) from Bella Coola area  Mother shot in self-defence
  • 2010 October two male siblings ( Jason & Drew) admitted from Bella Coola area mother shot after raiding poorly secured used cooking oil supply
  • 2008 August two male siblings admitted (Espen & Koda) from Lillooet area admitted  mother shot in self defense after dog attacked her and lured her back to owner
  • 2007 November male cub admitted (Jonny) from Purden Lake Area admitted   mother killed on highway
  • 2007  June female cub admitted (Suzy) from Tumbler Ridge area is admitted poaching of mother and sibling suspected

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Nicole's Blog 1 (NLWS Volunteer)

I had thought thirty six bears would make a lot of noise. But except for the odd soft moan the cubs are pretty quiet. A few of them sit in trees, a couple more are chasing each other around like kids in a game of tag, and one sits comfortably propped up against the chain link fence that separates these orphaned bear cubs from freedom. If it weren’t for the fence and the generosity of so many people and businesses, chances of survival would be very slim for these bears and the hundreds of animals who have already been rehabilitated and released back into the wild by Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter in Smithers, B.C. 

My head is spinning with new impressions and information: how to clean the quarantine cages, where to put the feed buckets after cleaning them, what animals get how much of which food. “To cut up a deer bucket” is volunteer speak for chopping fruit and veggies for the deer fawns who also get a second chance here. One of the fawns currently in care owes her life to a farm…