Rehab centre concerned for Alberta black bear cubs as release date looms

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WATCH: For months, a wildlife sanctuary in Cochrane has been helping rehabilitate two orphaned bear cubs. As Lisa MacGregor reports, the rehab facility believes they're not ready to leave but provincial officials are discussing having them released next month – Sep 11, 2018

Two orphaned Alberta black bear cubs have been in rehabilitation at the Cochrane Ecological Institute (CEI) for more than six months, but due to government regulations, the cubs are expected to be released on or before Oct. 15.

Clio Smeeton, owner and animal caretaker at CEI, said the anticipated release date is too soon and there are too many risks for the cubs.

“They’ll be put in an area they don’t know, totally not familiar with,” Smeeton said.

“They’ll be released at a time when all the other bears are looking to obtain as much food as possible so they can survive the winter on their fat reserves. So the risk is they’ll get killed by other grown-up bears and it’s the middle of the hunting season.”

Smeeton said she wants the cubs to stay at her rehab facility until after hibernation because the cubs would normally be spending their first winter with their mom.

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“The government of Alberta does not pay [the rehab facility] at all,” Smeeton said. “The government of Alberta purely issues a wildlife rehabilitation permit.”

READ MORE: Alberta gives orphaned black bear cub rehabilitation policy the green light

Last spring, the government policy to allow orphaned bears rehabilitation came into effect.

Alberta Environment and Parks arrived on site Tuesday to discuss a release date with Smeeton.

In a statement to Global News, officials said:

“Alberta Environment and Parks continues to have constructive conversations with the CEI about the welfare and release of the two bear cubs engaged in their rehabilitation program. Ultimately, both the government and CEI want to ensure these bears are ready to live in the wild as wild animals should.

“Alberta Environment and Parks always puts public safety and the well-being of animals as our top priorities when making decisions about the release of rehabilitated bears and we will continue to engage in discussions that are based on science, compassion and best practices.”

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No official decision was made on Tuesday about when the black bear cubs will be released from CEI.

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