Alberta Liberals to table petition to save animals like Russell the black bear

Thousands of Albertans support rehabilitation of orphaned bears: Liberal MLA
WATCH: More than 20-thousand people signed a petition to have Russel the injured bear cub saved by allowing conservation groups to step in. As Lauren Pullen reports now that petition has made its way to the Alberta legislature.

Alberta Liberal Party MLA Dr. David Swann will be tabling a petition Monday calling on the provincial government to lift restrictions on providing assistance to large injured animals, including a Calgary black bear known as Russell.

Under the current government policy, some species of injured or orphaned animals like Russell can’t be rescued from the wild.

The animal walks with a noticeable limp and had been living in a field near Highway 22 and Springbank Road since the fall. Area residents who were concerned for the animal’s well-being even built him a faux den on private property near the field.

“It’s eight years since the previous government banned the rehabilitation of these large animals, including bears, and Albertans really care about ensuring that our wild animals get rehabilitated and get safe recovery.” Swann said on Monday.

READ MORE: Alberta government to look at changing policy around rehabilitating orphaned bears

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Activists are hoping to have this policy changed before the start of the spring black bear hunt.

Wildlife biologist Lisa Dahlseide believes it is unethical to leave injured animals alone as she says Alberta Fish and Wildlife have done in the case of Russell the bear.

“Letting nature take its course is not ethical when it’s humans that have caused the problem and it’s unnecessary to let these animals suffer.”

“We have a responsibility to help ensure the health of vulnerable species in our ecosystem,” Swann said in a news release Monday. “With 3,500 hard signatures and over 17,000 online it is clear that Albertans understand this responsibility and want action taken. I encourage the Honourable Minister to heed their wisdom.”

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips commented on the petition Monday, saying her government held a roundtable discussion weeks ago to gauge how communities are feeling and to look into where the science is at. She anticipates a report with recommendations will be released in the coming weeks and confirmed her government is open to the possibility of making changes.

The Cochrane Ecological and Wildlife Society have offered to take in Russell the bear.

With files from Heide Pearson and Melissa Gilligan