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Freezing bear cub delivered to B.C. wildlife centre prompts calls for updated COS policies

B.C. conservation officers’ actions questioned over emaciated bears
There are more questions about the actions of B.C. conservation officers when it comes to helping orphaned wildlife.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service (COS) is under fire over the way it handles orphaned wildlife after a bear cub was delivered to a rescue centre shivering from a winter drive.

Nathan Wagstaffe with the Critter Care Wildlife Society in Langley says the cub, dubbed “Bear 29,” was dropped off heavily sedated by a conservation officer (CO) Tuesday.

Making matters worse, the 40-pound cub had been driven to the centre in the open bed of the officer’s pickup truck, with no blanket wrapped around the animal to shield it from the -9 C weather.

“The biggest concerns I had was that the bear was over-sedated, and exposed to the elements,” Wagstaffe said. “These issues combined can be deadly.”

Wagstaffe says the advice from veterinarians is that a 40-pound animal shouldn’t receive more than one or two CCs of sedation. Bear 29 had six CCs in its system when it was delivered.

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He added when animals are sedated, their internal temperature needs to be maintained and kept consistent — something difficult to do when it’s being driven through freezing temperatures.

READ MORE: Anmore couple in potential hot water after rescuing orphaned black bear cub

“By not covering up with a blanket, the animal could have died,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.

“It’s a simple measure that would have prevented us from spending two to three hours every 24 hours trying to revive this bear and get it back to health.”

The Critter Care Wildlife Society says this isn’t the first time an animal has been dropped off cold, and that conservation officers are routinely offered blankets that they refuse, saying they don’t need them.

B.C. family attempting to save bear cub frustrated by actions of conservation officers
B.C. family attempting to save bear cub frustrated by actions of conservation officers

Wagstaffe says COS policies should be reviewed and updated, including requiring blankets to be carried and used by officers.

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“I’m just frustrated with policies the [conservation officers] are following [that] aren’t helping the wildlife that much,” he said.

The COS was unavailable for an interview but said in a statement it understands the public’s desire to help wildlife.

READ MORE: B.C. couple who helped rescue emaciated bear cub won’t face legal action

“Officers are trained in the proper handling and care of animals, which includes guidance from our provincial wildlife veterinarian on the safe transportation of bear cubs,” the statement added.

The incident comes days after an Anmore couple was threatened with wildlife interference charges for taking another emaciated bear cub found on their deck to the Critter Care Wildlife Society.

In that case, the COS walked back the threat and promise a review of its practices.

READ MORE: Number of black bears destroyed by B.C. conservation officers up 40% from 2018: province

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Both cubs are on the road to recovery since being delivered to the wildlife society, but staff say they’re still far from 100 per cent.

Wagstaffe says more needs to be done to ensure bears in need of help are dropped off in as good of health as possible to ensure their recovery.

“I implore the Conservation Officer service to look at their policies and procedures and make them stricter, make them tighter, make it so everybody does it in the correct way that’s humane for the animals,” he said.

—With files from Rumina Daya