Orphaned bear cubs prepare for winter hibernation at Cochrane rehab centre

Two orphaned black bear cubs roam an enclosure at the Cochrane Ecological Institute. Cochrane Ecological Institute / Supplied

A couple of orphaned black bear cubs in Cochrane will be spending the winter in a new home.

“We’ve built them the hibernaculum and we’ve got trail cameras out there to watch what they’re doing,” said Clio Smeeton, president of the Cochrane Ecological Institute.

But the pair of cubs didn’t take to their new winter digs immediately.

“We were a bit worried to start off with because the female, Maskwa, went right in — she was just like a little lady looking over a new house — but Charlie was very reluctant to go in but last night he did,” Smeeton told Danielle Smith on 770 CHQR.

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How did Smeeton persuade the male bear, Charlie, to enter the structure intended to keep the cubs safe and warm over the winter months?

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“He just decided to go. And also bribery and corruption,” Smeeton said.

“Before we went out, I put two dishes with honey from our own bees and apples — that everyone has been kindly donating — right inside the hibernaculum. So they had to go inside the door to find it. When we opened it up, we found it was Maskwa.”

LISTEN: Clio Smeeton joins Danielle Smith to describe the process of getting the bear cubs ready for the winter

During the installation of the winter refuge, the bears “were horrified,” Smeeton said.

“We brought in the hibernaculum with a tractor and they shot out of their hiding place and up a large tree. And they complained about the whole business — they huff, it’s quite a loud huff.

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“We’ve got 140 acres of natural brush, montane habitat, and they never see a tractor.”

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But the non-profit wildlife facility wonders what Alberta Environment might have to say about a post-winter release of the bears after retracting a demand that the pair of cubs be released in October of 2018.

“They listened and so Charlie and Maskwa are safe for the winter, and we hope we won’t have to release them at the wrong time — in the middle of the spring bear hunt. They’ve listened once and maybe they’ll listen again.”

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