It was a heartbreaking discovery with a happy ending after whale watching guides found a bear cub hanging around a dead female bear, believed to be its mother.
Whale watcher John Forde spotted the lonely animal in Ross Pass on Saturday.
The cub was trying to nurse off of its dead mother before Forde and his wife Jennifer Steven jumped into action to rescue it.
They took the bear under their wing, providing it with water before transporting it to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington.
Forde told Global News the cub was in pretty rough shape, but has since been stabilized.
Forde, an outdoor enthusiast, runs a whale-watching company with his wife, allowing him to see several bears in the wild.
In a write-up on the Tofino Whale Centre’s website, Steven describes how the rescue played out.
“John looked for the cub and it was hiding in a hole beneath him,” Steven wrote.
“He tried to pick it up but it was spooked and climbed a tree.”
The group tried multiple times to get the bear cub but the scared animal continued to climb a tree and hide.
Losing light, the group made the decision to come back in the morning.
“Within minutes we could see the cub moving and laying on its dead mother,” Steven said.
The cub hid when it saw them, Steven said, but eventually came out from a hole to once again lay on its mother, which is when they were able to pick it up and carry it back to the boat.
“It was screaming,” Steven wrote.
“My heart was breaking listening to its screams but I knew this was its only chance to survive. The cub was distressed and looked thirsty.”
Steven wonders how the mother bear died, given the absence of any visible signs of trauma or frothing at the mouth.
He said he’s hopeful this is the only bear cub to be orphaned, adding he hasn’t seen a high number of mother bears die this season.
Forde and Steven say they hope to adopt the cub and help pay for her expenses while she’s being cared for at the recovery centre.