It happened very quickly. Two gun shots, no witnesses, a dead bear and three cubs left to fend for them selves. This cowardly act had the Northern Lights Wildlife Society welcoming three young cubs to their shelter last week.
After receiving a call on May 6, Angelica and Peter Langen headed out to Hixon, B.C. The report that came in was an illegal shooting of a cell bear and the orphaning of three cubs that were held up in a tree.
Joanne Kirkland, a local Hixton hunter, informed the shelter of the crime as she attempted to keep the cubs in contact while the Langen’s made their way to Hixton.
“It was obviously a driveby hunter,” Kirkland said. “Saw them, shot the cell.”
Upon arrive at the scene the cubs had not strayed far from their dead mother. Bear cubs encounter extreme emotional distress when they lose their mother at such a young age and repeatedly tried to nurse as the cell laid dead.
With the permission of Conservation Officers, the Northern Lights Wildlife Society were able to trap the cubs without further incident. This is the first time they have successfully rescued bear cubs without the assistance of Conservation Officers.
An avid bear hunter, Kirkland knows the importance of conservation and said this kind of act is deplorable among the hunting community.
“People are shocked at the fact that here I am spending all this time, energy and love saving these little cubs when we have hunting dogs and hunt bear,” she said. “But we have never shot a wet cell, we don’t need to.
“People who don’t understand wildlife and hunting, they have no idea about conservation.”
Once the cubs were safely back at the shelter the Langen’s were contacted by Conservation Officers in Prince George who were looking into the matter but said at this point they have nothing to go on with an investigation. However, Conservation Officers were not immediately available for comment.
Upon arrival at the shelter the cubs seemed to be in good health otherwise, however in a situation like this the cubs are under an enormous amount of stress as they begin to grieve.
“They’re settling in, they’re still very much disturbed and shy,” said Langen.
“They’re eating okay but not as good as we would like to see. They are very traumatized from the ordeal and it will take three or four weeks before they get over it.”
After the word spread about the illegal killing an anonymous donor contacted the Northern Lights Wildlife Society offering a reward for anyone with information that could lead to the arrest of the shooter. Although it’s not finalized yet they may be looking into legal action if someone is found accountable.
“If this person is found the fine is relatively minimal, I think it’s only a few hundred dollars,” Langen said. “But they want to know if they could strike a civil suit, they have a lawyer that would be willing to take it on and ask for reimbursement for the cost of rehabilitating the cubs.”
Most of the animals the shelter rescues are due to some kind of human interaction. In February the shelter also received two cubs the same age after a logging operation cut right through a den, killing the mother and leaving the cubs orphaned in the dead of winter. The men responsible quickly called the shelter and the bears were saved.
However, clearly people are not always responsible and the symbiotic relationship between humans and animals continues to deteriorate. But in a situation like this the shooters aren’t hinters, they’re poachers.
“We work with a lot of hunters and have great support from them with the work that we do and great relationships,” Langen said.
“But people like this put everybody out there at risk. They call themselves hunters but they should really be called poachers because what they are doing is illegal and unethical and should not be thrown in the same pot as the people who hunt and have ethics. We make a distinct difference there.”