An Anmore, B.C., couple is facing potential legal ramifications after taking matters into their own hands to rescue an orphaned black bear cub.
Corrine and Michael Robson discovered the cub shivering under a table on their deck Wednesday night.
The couple called the Critter Care Wildlife Society to make sure it could accommodate the animal, then called the Conservation Officer Service (COS) to ask them to transport it.
“I tried to explain to him that Critter Care had a spot, they will take the bear,” Corinne said.
“The conservation officer has to be the one that takes the bear there and he refused to do it.”
The couple says the COS told them an officer could attend the next morning, but would only move the bear into the nearby woods where it could fend for itself.
They were also warned that moving the bear themselves could come with legal action and even arrest.
“They refused to come out, which was really, really disappointing,” said Michael.
The next morning, the cub was still there. But instead of calling the COS again, the couple called animal rights group the Fur-Bearers, who helped them take it to Critter Care.
“He’s thin, he should be like 70, 80 pounds. He’s only 20 pounds, he’s quite emaciated,” said Critter Care executive director Gail Martin. “It would have died. It’s too small, it’s too thin.”
But while Martin is happy the cub is now likely to pull through, she said members of the public shouldn’t try and rescue wildlife on their own.
“They should not be picking up bear cubs until they know the circumstances — or not ever, really, because you don’t know the circumstances regarding that animal,” she said.
In the case of the Robsons, their decision may have consequences.
“Now I’m under investigation for interfering with wildlife, and there’s a possibility they’re going to charge me and put me in jail,” said Michael.
The COS says it is investigating the incident from both sides, but also echoed Martin in warning the public not to take wildlife rescues into their own hands.
The agency’s handling of the situation has drawn criticism from the Fur-Bearers, which said it should have been an easy decision to send an officer to transport the bear.
“It is alarming to me that seeking help for a clearly underweight bear cub, so much resistance was met,” said spokesperson Michael Howie.
“There is a very real fear and distrust with the public regarding calling the Conservation Officer Service for help, and this kind of case just reinforces that and highlights the problems with communication at the very least.”
-With files from Linda Aylesworth