Bragg Creek residents come together to talk about smart bear practices


The mother black bear who was shot and killed in Bragg Creek at the end of August left behind three cubs who now answer nature’s call alone, without the benefit of their most important survival lesson – how to build a den.

The mother black bear who was shot and killed in Bragg Creek at the end of August left behind three cubs who now answer nature’s call alone, without the benefit of their most important survival lesson – how to build a den.

The continuing story of the three orphaned black bears and their chances of survival unfolds among members of the Hamlet community, as well as bear researchers and provincial wildlife officials.

Alberta Environment and Parks officials euthanized the sow on August 28, after she ended up in a resident’s garbage. After climbing a tree, the three orphaned cubs were also targeted for euthanasia, before residents intervened.

While the end of the three bears’ story may ultimately remain unknown, if a community meeting held in the provincial park on the outskirts of Bragg Creek on September 7 is any indication, there’s no shortage of passion mixed with science. the debate is going on.

Sarah Elmeligi provided both at the meeting, hosted by wildlife organization Bragg Creek Wild.

An interdisciplinary conservation scientist and community engagement specialist, Elmeligi had bright eyes as she told about 40 people how she felt about the mother bear shot by Alberta Environment and Parks officers. (AEP), leaving the three cubs behind. They are estimated to be seven months old.

“It’s all very sad. But we should allow that sadness to motivate us to change,” she said.

Elmeligi’s main point was about the need for more education. His book, What Bears Teach Usfocuses on lessons that communities can learn to coexist more peacefully with bears, in order to avoid heated debates between proponents of rehabilitation and those who oppose them.

“This is an opportunity for our community to step up,” she said.

Some residents and wildlife advocates present at the meeting want the provincial wildlife department – ​​AEP – to actively try to trap the cubs so they can rehabilitate them.

But AEP is bound by protocols describing how interactions are handled. Their representatives were invited to the meeting, but did not attend, instead sending a statement that read in part: “Wildlife rehabilitation research indicates that human intervention is likely to cause more harm to these cubs according to their age”.

Lisa Dahlseide, director of education at the Cochrane Ecological Institute (CEI), said that statement is factually incorrect, based on experience of the same circumstances in other provinces.

“I don’t see how the cubs in Alberta would be different from the cubs in Ontario or British Columbia, but apparently the Government of Alberta thinks they are – maybe they are redneck cubs and that they can survive better. I’m not sure, she said with a hint of sarcasm.

Current Alberta government policy prohibits the rescue of bears from July to January.

“All other jurisdictions rehabilitate more cubs in the fall than in the spring,” Dahlseide said.

“This is the age group that is most likely not to survive if it is not with its mother.”

According to Dahlseide, three facts stack the odds against the recently orphaned cubs of Bragg Creek. First, they would be easy prey for large bears looking to fatten up for the winter. Second, they would not be as able to fatten up because without their mother they are not good at feeding themselves. And three, they couldn’t nurse during the winter.

“It’s a big blow for them to lose their mother, and it would be nice if we could rehabilitate them,” Dahlseide said.

Not everyone was in the pro-rehabilitation camp. Wade Hornberger, who runs the Cowboy Roast House at the entrance to Bragg Creek, issued a loud and impassioned warning to the pro-rehabilitation speakers in attendance.

“You have no choice but to euthanize these little ones. Would you rather they die now, when they are young and healthy, or do you want those little ones out there in the middle of winter, knowing nothing, and starving? ” He asked.

Hornberger told the crowd how a bear knocked on his kitchen door at the Roast House earlier this year trying to grab a loaf of bread while he was behind the door. He said he had to try to educate his “bleeding-hearted” daughter that sometimes shooting the bear is the only option.

He said pro-rehab people are just asking for trouble.

“If you don’t euthanize these cubs, you’re in big trouble. This is going in the wrong direction,” he warned.

Hornberger said he follows good attractant management (bear-proof trash cans and proper grease disposal), but still had four bear encounters this year, including one at 3 a.m. . He chased the bear across Highway 22, only to retreat when the bear decided to turn around and chase him.

The IEC is said to be willing to rehabilitate the cubs, but they are currently in a dispute with the province, which has stripped them of their license. The province extended the suspension until the 2022-2023 fiscal year, since the matter is still before the courts. IEC is still able to continue rehabilitating wildlife other than bears.

The IEC is offering to partner in a joint research project on returning orphans to the wild with Dr. Peter Neuhaus of the University of Calgary (who also spoke at the September 7 meeting) and the Kainai First Nation. To date, the AEP has refused to participate in this research, the costs of which would be borne entirely by the other participants.

The other rehabilitation center equipped to handle orphaned black bear cubs is the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation in Madden, which remains licensed by the province.

The cubs have been spotted in the area since their mother was killed. For now, they will have to rely on primal instinct to survive. Their only behavior learned from their mother was knowing where to find much-needed calories made available by careless humans.

Now, to survive, they’re going to have to learn to be wild to become wild.


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