Three black bear cubs found locked in a Banff National Park bathroom on April 1 will be released back into Alberta after about a year of rehabilitation in Ontario.
“The provincial rules don’t apply because—as outdated as they are—it’s federal land, not provincial,” Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary managing director Howard Smith told Global News Friday.
The rules Smith cites refer to Alberta fish and wildlife policy, which prohibits the rehabilitation of black bears on provincial land.
“They will be released into the park wild…Our approval here is based on that, so that’s the way it’s going to be.”
Smith said the timing related to transporting the bears is expected to be finalized in the next day or so, adding the cubs are doing well.
“They’re all in really good shape now. I think they’ve gained a couple pounds each in the last weeks they’ve been [in the care of Parks Canada].”
Watch below: Three little bear cubs are being cared for by Parks Canada staff, after being found locked in a roadside bathroom. As Jenna Freeman reports, officials are trying to figure out how they ended up there.
The Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary typically rehabilitates between 10 and 20 bears per year, with an average of about 14. Smith said they have rehabilitated as many as 80 during a “bad food year.”
His facility includes about 470 acres of land in Muskoka, north of Toronto.
“We have everything basically from mouse to moose,” Smith said. “We’re able to have large natural habitat-type enclosures rather than a zoo with small cages. “It’s an enclosure big enough so they can climb trees and do more bear-like things.”
Smith said the human contact will be minimized, acknowledging two of the bear cubs will still need a few months of bottle feeding.
“We don’t go in there dressed like a human; we go in a coat and a bear-like mask so they don’t see a human image when we’re feeding them,” he said. “We will not be handling them. They don’t need any human training.”
Watch below from April 8: Three bear cubs found trapped in a washroom in Banff will not be sent to a rehab society in B.C. Kristen Robinson has more.
The Aspen Valley centre is a charity and doesn’t have staff to do field studies after bears have been released, but Smith hasn’t had any reports of rehabilitated bears that have become a problem.
He said unlike animals that are orphaned alone, these three cubs together will have enough “instinct” to know how to behave once they’re released back into the wild.
“Right now, they’re not running up to people from in their cage. They’re staying back, huffing and puffing,” he said. “They think they’re 400-pound bears, the way they behave, trying to look real tough—which is what you want to see. “You don’t want an animal running up to get his nose scratched.”
He said the cubs will still need the milk-like formula, but can lap it out of a bowl as they mature. They’re also being introduced to fruits and vegetables.
Parks Canada continues to investigate how the bear cubs ended up in the locked bathroom two weeks ago.
The day they were found was the first day of the spring bear hunt in Alberta.
“I can’t draw conclusions, but it seems coincidental,” Smith said. “That’s an issue here in Ontario, too; when they reopen spring bear hunt, cubs are orphaned as a result.”