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Black bear death prompts calls for provincial policy change

Calls to change policy that doesn’t allow animal rehabilitation
WATCH: There are calls for change to a policy in Nova Scotia that doesn't allow the rehabilitation of certain wildlife. Alicia Draus reports.

In any given year, the staff and volunteers at Hope For Wildlife see over 150 different species. In its 23-year history, the rescue organization has helped to rehabilitate and release over 40,000 injured and orphaned wild animals.

“They’re always different, they’re always changing, we never know what’s going to come through the door,” said Hope Swinimer, founder of the rescue organization.

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

A few weeks ago, a black bear was dropped off one night, but due to a provincial policy the organization is not allowed to rehabilitate black bears, and rescue centres are required to alert the Department of Lands and Forestry if they receive one.

That’s what Swinimer did the next morning, and within the hour officials from the Department of Lands and Forestry retrieved the bear and then killed it.

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The Department of Lands and Forestry did not respond for a request for comment, but Swinimer says she’s been told that it’s in part because Nova Scotia already has a healthy bear population.

Hope for Wildlife welcomes last-minute donation of Christmas tree donations
Hope for Wildlife welcomes last-minute donation of Christmas tree donations

“By destroying the black bear it sends a message that they have no value and we really believe this is the wrong message to send,” said Swinimer.

“I have been struggling to make change over the last 25 years, I would really like to see some of the way we look at things change and be able to rehabilitate all of Nova Scotia’s wildlife.”

Bear rehabilitation is practiced in other provinces across the country, and Swinimer says there is no reason it can’t be done here too.

The organization already has an enclosure that could accommodate a bear up to six months old, and they are willing to build a larger one if they get permission to take care of the animals.

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“We have veterinarians that have rehabilitated black bears, hundreds of them and some of our staff have worked with black bears, and most everybody here, we have people who are highly educated in biology and the sciences.”

And last year, the organization did take care of one black bear for over 100 days after it was dropped off by Lands and Forestry officials.

“It turned out we weren’t supposed to do that, so sometimes it gets confusing over what direction we’re supposed to take,” said Swinimer, but she says during that time they were able to care for the bear, and when the picked it back up it was still very much a wild bear.

“Even though we had to interact with him quite a bit he did not turn out imprinted or habituated in anyway.”

Meanwhile the policy doesn’t just limit the rescue centre for caring for bears. There are a number of animals that they require special permission to care for and then there are a handful that are not allowed at all, including black bears, moose, coyotes and adult deer.

“I think this presents an opportunity to educate Nova Scotians of what happens in this province,” said Swinimer.

She says she’s been putting pressure on politicians to change the policy and encourages Nova Scotians to do something similar by writing letters to the premier and the Minister of Lands and Forestry.

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“We’re getting wonderful support and wonderful feedback, and people offering to help, help financially or anyway they can,” said Swinimer.