Cubs orphaned after mother bear illegally shot and killed in B.C. Interior

The BC Wildlife Federation and the BC Conservation Officer Service is issuing a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to the conviction of a person responsible for shooting and killing a mother black bear in the Similkameen Valley.

Penticton conservation officer Clayton DeBruin said they discovered a deceased sow black bear on a vineyard in the 700-block of Bypass Road in Keremeos, B.C., on Oct. 1.

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It’s believed the mother bear, who was still producing milk for her two cubs aged seven to eight months, was fatally shot between the evening of Sept. 30 and the following morning.

Saskatoon zoo to rehabilitate orphaned black bear cubs
Saskatoon zoo to rehabilitate orphaned black bear cubs

“The sow, or mother black bear, was known to us and known to the community of Keremeos because of its distinct coloration, it was a light coloured bear,” DeBruin told Global News.

Conservation officers are concerned about the well-being of the orphaned bear cubs, as they usually spend up to 18 months with their mother learning how to find food.

READ MORE: Father and son poachers caught killing mother bear and cubs in Alaska

DeBruin said the cubs are healthy and he is hopeful they will survive the winter, but the cubs may not be able to properly den without their mother.

The Conservation Officer Service is actively attempting to trap the orphaned bear cubs.

“Ideally we could be able to capture them and send them to an orphaned cub rehabilitation facility so that they can be brought to an appropriate weight and they can be released back into the wild” DeBruin said.

Bear cubs doing well 3 months after being found in Banff bathroom
Bear cubs doing well 3 months after being found in Banff bathroom

Anyone found responsible could be fined up to $25,000 or be jailed for six months, according to DeBruin. The offences include hunting wildlife out of season and failure to retrieve game under the BC Wildlife Act.

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DeBruin said a “large portion” of the human-bear conflicts in the South Okanagan-Similkameen revolve around orchards and vineyards. He encourages owners and managers of agricultural properties to educate themselves about how to avoid wildlife conflict.

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“I would insist they take more steps to try and understand all the wildlife that they share the landscape with in order to better prepare them and to avoid conflict with those bears,” he said.

Some solutions include managing attractants and maintaining electrical or conventional fencing.

DeBruin said he couldn’t comment on the bear family’s activities and if there had been any conflict with farmers prior to the incident given the ongoing investigation.

More information about becoming “Bear Smart” can be found on the Wildsafe BC website.