An orphanage to save bear cubs

The challenges of living together

On the brink of extinction in parts of North America in the 20th century, grizzly bears have bolstered conservation movements over the past 40 years. These environmental mobilizations were financed for a greater social acceptance of the sharing of the territory.

: “Et bien, quand ils sont dans mon jardin, c’est vraiment problématique””,”text”:”Cela a entraîné la résurgence des populations de grands carnivores dans de nombreux endroits. […] C’est une sorte de couteau à double tranchant, car les gens disent maintenant: “Et bien, quand ils sont dans mon jardin, c’est vraiment problématique””}}”>This has led to the resurgence of large carnivore populations in many places. […] It’s kind of a double-edged sword, because people are now saying, “Well, when they’re in my garden, it’s really problematic”says the UBC researcher.

People love the idea of ​​having large carnivores until they’re in their backyard. »

A quote from Clayton Lamb

The presence of large carnivores in human-dominated landscapes has become one of the greatest conservation challenges of our time, according to a 2020 study published in the scientific journal PNAS.Photo: Darryn Epp

Fortunately, to reduce conflicts and find a way for humans to live in harmony with bears, there are solutions. Killing fewer bears would reduce the conflicts themselves, because when you kill a lot of bears, it results in a population of naïve young bears who don’t quite know how to live near humanssays Clayton Lamb.

The use of bear spray by hikers and the installation of electric fences to protect properties are effective options for improving our relationship with these wild animals.he argues.

Clayton Lamb adds that the rehabilitation of the cubs requires a lot of resources. Moving our problems to another region is another, less expensive solution. However, he admits that there is no silver bullet.

Clayton Lamb is examining a grizzly bear on Vancouver Island.

Clayton Lamb is a wildlife scientist at the University of British Columbia and works on the ecology of large mammals throughout western North America.
Photo: Provided by Clayton Lamb/Janet Ng

Indeed, the relocation of ours rarely works, as explained by Vanessa Isnardy, program manager Wild Safe BCan organization that attempts to prevent conflict with wildlife in the province.

Bears often return to their home territory or fail to adapt to their new habitat and as a result they may starve or be killed by animals already occupying the territory.

Vanessa Isnardy therefore advocates better management of food waste.

At Smithers, even outside of his working hours as Animal Care Manager at the Northern Light Wildlife SocietyKim Gruijis regularly finds these animals at home: I always say the neighbors have been in the garden when I see a bear with her cubs.

Kim Gruijis is half-seated in a small terrain car in front of a wooden house, in Smithers, British Columbia in July 2022.

Kim Gruij is the animal care manager at the Northern Light Wildlife Society.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Camille Vernet

She lives well this coexistence. They stay at a safe distance and I make sure there is nothing around my house that attracts themshe says.

Amélie Bombardier, a Montreal volunteer at the shelter, says her knowledge of these mammals is limited. Be bear aware [“Restez attentif à la présence des ours”].”,”text”:”Au Québec, on n’a pas cette culture de Be bear aware [“Restez attentif à la présence des ours”].”}}”>In Quebec, we don’t have this culture of BWe are conscious [“Restez attentif à la présence des ours”].

She sees her participation as a personal challenge. What is important is to learn more about the behavior of our own, but also to ensure that we can release them into the wild so that they can have a second chance.

Two people are picking up grass, one of them putting it in a plastic crate, behind wooden cabins, in Smithers, British Columbia in July 2022.

The volunteers are not in direct contact with ours, but they take care of preparing a huge quantity of food for the animals.
Photo: Radio-Canada / Camille Vernet

Back to nature

After a year of care, the grizzlies – which stay in an enclosure far from prying eyes – are airlifted back to their home territory. They are equipped with transmitter collars, which makes it possible to follow them and see whether or not they have succeeded in adapting to their return to their natural environment.

Seeing them back in the wild, in their habitat, is amazing, it’s the most rewarding feeling I can imagine. »

A quote from Kim Gruijis, Animal Care Manager, Northern Light Wildlife Society

The organization, funded entirely by donations, covers an immense territory, the entire province, with the exception of Greater Vancouver and Vancouver Island. The black bears are transported by car in suitable enclosures, then released in their region of origin.

Shawn Landry is in charge of moving the omnivores. This year, low temperatures in May compromised the return to the wild of two Smithers’ bears. It’s too early to go back here, there’s not enough food for the bearshe said lifting the rocks to observe the number of insects.

The window of opportunity to free them is shrinking, but the team needn’t get impatient. We have to find the best places for their survivalsays Shawn Landry.

Shawn Landry is in a field of yellowed grass and dead vegetation, mountains in the background, in Smithers, British Columbia in July 2022.

There is not enough vegetation on the ground to be able to put the cubs who have been at the shelter for a year free, according to Shawn Landry, who has gone on a scouting trip.
Photo: Radio-Canada / Camille Vernet

When the time is right, after a sometimes long drive in the company of a bear, Shawn Landry opens the cage door. Sometimes he runs a little and he turns around and looks at us, but after that he goes into the forest.he says. That’s the beauty of British Columbia living with bears. It’s a proud moment.

The line between us and them is not that far, we can live in harmony and we can be guardians of their survival, we just have to look around and understand the little things we can do to lessen our impacthe finished.

editor’s note : The Ecological Footprint for this item has been attributed to 0.49 ton of CO2.


This script is part of Human Nature, a series of content that features changemakers who are positively influencing the environment and their communities in British Columbia.

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