Biz women become mama bears

A Port Moody mortgage brokerage is putting its marketing savvy and passion to work to support the 17 bear cubs that are spending the winter at the Critter Care Wildlife Centre in Langley.

Seven of the black bear cubs at Critter Care are from the Tri-Cities, plucked by conservation officers and taken to the refuge because their mothers were destroyed for getting into people’s garbage.

Mortgage broker Susan Zanders of Verico Zanders and Associates said the team works out of her home office next to Bert Flinn Park and sees bears on a regular basis.

“They slip out of the forest and into the neighbourhood,” she said.

The staff, including Zanders, Alicia Zanders, Caroline Krilic and Katrin Zantis, got used to seeing the bruins and one day saw a cub climb a tree after being scared by a neighbour’s dogs.

“It was so frightened, you could see it in its eyes,” Alicia Zanders said.

They were told by a conservation officer that bears are lured from the forest. “What people don’t know is that the bears smell the garbage,” Susan Zanders said, and when they start eating it, they lose their fear of humans.

“It changes the nature of the animals and not in a good way,” Alicia Zanders explained.

The firm, which has 11 brokers throughout B.C. and the Yukon, has promoted Bear Aware on its website but the experience this past summer prompted the team to get more proactive.

In addition to starting a blog — in which members of the public are invited to participate — the group posted links, videos and bear information on its website (

This fall, they visited Critter Care in Langley and became ardent supporters of the organization, which looks after about 1,500 mammals annually. When they got to see the bear cubs briefly, they fell in love.

“They come in heartbroken when they’ve lost their moms,” said Krilic, who said the bears all have different personalities and colouring.

The team decided it had to do more. The women donated $900 to the centre in exchange for a bear cub photo for their Christmas card, started a colouring contest for kids featuring bear cubs in the picture, and will donate $100 for every Critter Care mortgage they sign up.

“People can also donate directly to Critter Care online or buy gifts at the centre,” Susan Zanders explained. “They won’t get to see the cubs but they are supporting them.”

Future plans include a supply drive for paper products and other materials the centre will need when the bears wake up in spring, and Susan Zanders — who has been knocking on doors to remind people to lock up their garbage — plans to make a presentation to Port Moody council to get the city to crack down on trash can scofflaws.

It seems their caring-for-bears project took on a life of its own, and Susan Zanders agrees, saying, “We thought there was so much we could do and it just kept on growing.”

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