Manitoba’s first black bear cub rehabilitation centre is getting underway, with the help of a $50,000 donation from ex-game show host, Bob Barker.
The former star of The Price Is Right is donating money from his foundation to Judy and Roger Stearns, who plan to set up the centre on their property near Stonewall, about 40 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
Judy, an animal rights activist, spent years trying to get the rehabilitation centre running. She said, thanks to Barker’s contribution, along with help from Zoocheck Canada, they can make the centre larger and more complex than originally planned.
“I love Bob Barker, Judy said. “I have always been a fan, and never in my wildest dreams would I have thought he would have been involved in this.”
Barker is the former star of one of television’s longest-running game shows, The Price is Right.
“I think it’s important to donate to help all animals everywhere,” Barker told Global News. “I am pleased to have the opportunity to do it.”
“I hope they put one cub after another in there and nourish them until they are strong enough to grow up and have wonderful lives in the timbre of Manitoba,” Barker said.
LISTEN: Bob Barker tells Global News why he donated to the Manitoba black bear sanctuary
The sanctuary will cost up to $75,000 to build. Judy and Roger Stearns will make up what’s left after the donation from Barker and the $10,000 contribution from Zoocheck.
The couple is building the centre on their property, meaning they had to get support from their neighbors. Judy Stearns said everyone has been supportive. The Wild and Fisheries branch of the province’s department of Sustainable Development gave the Stearns of list of criteria that the couple must meet which they are currently working through. After that is completed work on the centre will move forward.
First of its kind
The rehabilitation centre will be the first of its kind in Manitoba. Prior to this, orphaned black bear cubs were usually taken into captivity or killed, said Julie Woodyer of Zoocheck Canada.
“There are other provinces that have black bear rehabilitation centres, like Ontario and British Columbia. Manitoba has been behind and that’s why we wanted to help Judy and Roger build this,” she said.
Working with Conservation Manitoba, the Stearns will receive orphaned bear cubs in the spring. Then the couple, along with volunteers and a veterinarian on retainer, will care for them throughout the summer. This involves feeding them and giving them a “safe haven to grow,” Judy said.
Once the bears are around 80 pounds (about the size of a large dog) they will be released back in the wild in the fall, just in time for hibernation, she said.
“At that time they would be large enough to fend for themselves,” Judy said.
She said she’s not sure how many cubs they will care for every summer, but it could be around four.
The Stearns are also receiving help from Dr. John Beecham, a renowned bear rehabilitation expert, to help design the facility and develop protocols. Woodyer and Beecham visited the Stearns’ property in July to look at the property and discuss the project with Manitoba Wildlife.
Pending final approval from municipal and provincial government authorities, the Stearns hope to have the facility running by next spring.
When Global News asked Barker if he would come visit the sanctuary he said, “I might just do that. I am retried now from Price is Right and have nothing else to do. Why not go to Manitoba?”
— With files from The Canadian Press