Bear cub

Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter sees influx of bear cubs this summer

Shelter has already taken in 22 black bears and 2 grizzlies

  • Aug. 1, 2021 9:30 a.m.

The Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter (NLWS) has an unusually large cohort of bear cubs this summer.

Angelika Langen, co-founder of the shelter, said they have already taken in 22 black bears and two grizzlies, noting while they always have cubs at this time of year it’s normally not so many.

The number has been inflated significantly in the past month by the addition of two sets of triplets.

Most recently, Northern Lights took in the second set of triplets on July 28 from 108 Mile.

“The mom got hit by a vehicle fatally, she was still alive and the conservation officer put her out of her misery,” Langen said.

The Conservation Officer Service turned over the capture of the cubs to NLWS because of the forest fires in that part of the province, Langen noting the capture went very smoothly.

“I was lucky I had a volunteer in Lillooet so she could go up there with a trap and set the trap right away the first night and we caught one of the cubs,” she explained.

“Then, my son-in-law left here the next morning with more traps and transport boxes and they set those the following evening and by 11 o-clock we already had them.”

Langen reports all three cubs were very healthy and are doing well at the shelter.

“They’re three boys in very good condition, each of them is over 30 pounds so that’s very good for a cub this time of year; I’m expecting them to do just great.”

The first set of triplets (two females and a male) came to NLWS via Burns Lake conservation officer Jeff Palm in late June.

On the eve of June 26, Burns Lake Conservation Officer Jeff Palm received a phone call from a resident who said there had been a bear in the neighbourhood on East Tchesinkut Road for the last three years and that it had become increasingly bold and fearless of people.

The resident had placed the call after witnessing the bear kill a deer faun on the front lawn of the residences, according to Palm.

On the following day of June 27, Palm said he went out to East Tchesinkut Road and spoke to the caller who was at a household with two other individuals. He also spoke to another resident in another household nearby. Both persons claimed that the bear had begun to bluff charge some of the residents there. The second resident told Palm about an additional incident where the bear chased an individual off a deck.

“With that information, I decided to set a bear trap there,” said Palm.

Palm said on June 29, he captured a bear sow. This was the bear which the locals affectionately called “Scruffy.” She was destroyed by the conservation officer while her three cubs hid up inside a nearby tree until they were tranquilized and taken to Northern Lights in Smithers.

This was upsetting to some residents and that afternoon, local resident of 20 years, Tammy Konkin arrived at the scene with a friend as Palm returned with an empty trap to prepare to tranquilize the cubs. Konkin had noticed the bear trap at the end of Glen Road a few days prior and decided to keep her eye out for the conservation officer so she could speak to him.

“He didn’t really want to talk to me,” said Konkin, “I asked him ‘did you phone anybody else? Are you doing this on just one phone call?’ And he just would not answer me.”

Another upset local resident Helene Loetscher has been trying to set up an appointment with the conservation service to demand the same information as Konkin.

“What is the policy in B.C.?” said Loetscher, “I think they should relocate but apparently, they don’t. Do they really need just one person to call in and say he was attacked for the CO [conservation officer] to go out and see what happened? Because nobody saw it as a threat. Nobody else,” she said.

According to Palm, relocating bears is more of a “feel good” thing and does not really provide a solution as bears will often travel back to what they know to be their homes.

“It’s not been dealt with when a bear is travelling over mountain ranges, rivers and train tracks and roads just to get back to where it came from,” said Palm.

Palm captured the three cubs and delivered them to Langen. Those three are also thriving at the shelter, Langen said.

-With files from Madalene Arias