by Dan Fumano
“Moxie” came down from Grouse Mountain, “Molly” is from Merritt, and the one they call “Chevy” was named for the Chevron refinery in Burnaby, near where he was rescued.
They’re just three of the record number of orphaned bear cubs taken in this year by a Metro Vancouver animal rescue centre now pleading for donations to feed the animals.
Critter Care Wildlife Society in Langley has already received 26 cubs this season, many of them on the brink of starvation.
Four bears died within 24 hours of rescue, and staff and volunteers are working hard to nurture the remaining 22 back to health.
Gail Martin, Critter Care’s founder and executive director, has worked in animal rehab for 30 years and has never seen an influx of orphaned bears like this.
“They’re coming out of the woodwork,” she said.
In an average year, she said, Critter Care might take in between 10 and 15 orphaned bears among the 1,200 and 1,300 mammals from around B.C. it rehabilitates and releases into the wild.
Many of the animals are too small and underweight to hibernate right now, she said. Two bears rescued over the weekend weighed only about 20 pounds each, far below a healthy weight.
“A healthy cub with good food would be about 60 pounds,” said Dr. Ken MacQuisten, a veterinarian who has cared for Critter Care’s bears for years.
It’s difficult to say what is causing this year’s surge in orphaned bears, MacQuisten said, but it’s unlikely the orphaned cubs would have survived a winter if left to fend for themselves. But now, he said, with enough food and care, the rescued bears should be able to recover and be healthy by next year.
“They’ll catch back up. They’re incredibly resilient,” he said.
Critter Care is appealing for donations of fruit and vegetables to feed the bears.
The four bears who died this year shortly after arriving at Critter Care were severely underweight, Martin said.
“They had been eating metal and plastic and just trying to stay alive,” Martin said. “I find that very sad.”
“Bears have that will to live. To lose four this year, that’s the first time ever. They’re such a hearty animal, it just doesn’t happen.”
– Dan Fumano is a reporter with the Vancouver Province. Read more Province stories HERE.