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Wildlife group criticizes provincial policy to euthanize orphaned black bears

Courtesy of the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association.

CALGARY – A Calgary area wildlife group is speaking out against an Alberta policy that requires orphaned black bears be killed, rather than rehabilitated.

The Cochrane Ecological Institute used to rehabilitate cubs but now they say thousands of orphans could potentially be euthanized each year because of provincial regulations that came into effect four years ago.

“Black bears cougars wolves and coyotes are on the list of species where if someone were to bring it to us, by law, we would have to euthanize it,” says Lisa Dahlseide, Education Director with the Cochrane Ecological Institute.

The province says there are 40,000 black bears in Alberta, but staff at the CEI say it’s outdated data. They suggest the spring bear hunt is resulting in many more orphaned bears.

“Who knows how many black bears there are? The government is not keeping track of how many are being shot each year. They have the tags for the spring bear hunt, but there could potentially be thousands of orphans that are shot annually in Alberta alone because of our policies,” said Dahlseide.

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The question is: can black bears can be successfully rehabilitated? Staff at CEI have been re-releasing bear cubs since 1983 and say they’ve never had a problem.

“When they are released properly and raised they have very minimal contact with humans,” said Institute Manager, Mike Curtis.

Bear killing policies have come under international criticism this month, after the suspension of a B.C. conservation officer who refused to kill two orphaned black bear cubs. The education director at CEI says that routinely happens in Alberta.

“This is hard for a conservation officer because they go into that line of work because they love animals or they love nature and then they’re instructed that they have to go and shoot baby animals if they are orphaned,” said Dahlseide.

An international conference on black bear management was held in Canmore this spring.

Conservation officers in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado are all required to rehabilitate orphaned bear cubs.