Three orphaned bear cubs captured after their mother was shot for attacking an Anmore man Monday are in isolation in a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Langley.
Gail Martin, executive director of Critter Care, one of four centres that take orphaned bears in B.C., said the Anmore cubs were traumatized but otherwise healthy after conservation officers brought them to the centre Monday afternoon.
"They just cower, they just hang on to each other," said Martin, describing the three males, each weighing about 39 lb., that were captured after their mother was killed following an attack in the Countryside Village manufactured home park near Buntzen Lake.
The female had been relocated once already and was eating from garbage cans in the manufactured home park Monday morning when Ken Hogue came upon her while it was in a scrap with another dog. The bear charged him as he was walking his small dog, scratched his arm and stood over him while he lay in pain from a head wound from banging his head on a rock. It was eventually scared away by a neighbour, and later located and destroyed by conservation officers.
The mother bear's three cubs, which had taken refuge in a tree, were then tranquillized and taken to Critter Care, where they are expected to stay for the next 10 months.
Hogue, meanwhile, was taken to Eagle Ridge Hospital, bandaged and sent home, where he is now recovering from the incident. He said later he was walking near the tree where the cubs were hiding when he was attacked.
Martin said it's normal for cubs to arrive stressed from having been tranquillized and removed from their mother. They'll be fed infant Pedialyte to hydrate them and then given strawberry-flavoured Ensure to help them gain weight and maintain a healthy digestive system before they are introduced to solid food.
"They can drink as much as they want. One day, they just stop," said Martin, who said the cubs will then be fed a diet of boiled rice with yogurt, berries, vegetables and puppy kibble.
During their stay, it's important for staff to keep their distance from the bears so they don't become accustomed to humans. "There's no interaction," Martin said, and by mid-December the cubs will go into hibernation in one of three den options, such as wood and underground tubes, that replicate what they would use in the wild.
"They always den together," said Martin, who said the three cubs will be introduced to a fourth orphaned cub once they've had a chance to settle down.
In spring, they'll be fed a diet of skunk cabbage, dandelions and grasses until June, when conservation officers will reintroduce them into the wild.
Rehabilitated bears aren't monitored so there's no way of knowing how they do in the wild but Martin said research has proven it works.
Still, she's sure of one thing: If people kept their garbage secure in animal-resistant bins, fewer bears would become habituated to garbage and fewer would have to be shot, leaving orphans such as these three siblings behind.
"People living where there are these types of animals should be containing their garbage properly. People need to become bear-smart, that's the bottom line," Martin said, adding that people should keep their dogs leashed when walking in the woods to avoid confrontations.
Critter Care's mammal rehabilitation centre has been operating for 28 years and accepting orphaned bears since 2004, rehabilitating 77 bruins since. It also accepts other injured and orphaned mammals, including as marmots and raccoons.
Critter Care is dependent on donations and receives no government funding. To donate to the care of these cubs, call 604-530-2054 or visit www.crittercarewildlife.org.