Two orphan bear cubs recently made the long journey from Haida Gwaii to Prince Rupert to the Northern Lights Wildlife Society in Smithers.
After a bear cub was spotted alone near the airport in Skidegate last week, the conservation officer was called to help the bear. On Nov. 18, the cub was flown to Prince Rupert where he was picked up by volunteers and driven to Smithers. The transport truck made it through white-out conditions to get to Terrace, 15 minutes before the highway was temporarily closed due to avalanche concerns.
Then a week later, the conservation officer on Haida Gwaii got another call — a second bear cub was spotted near the airport.
“They didn’t know about the second one,” said Angelika Langen, who runs the Northern Lights Wildlife Society shelter. “A cub was seen, but they could’ve seen both, they were just never seen together. After the one was caught and they sent it over, two days later the other one showed up. There was probably two the whole time, but nobody realized.”
The Northern Lights Wildlife Society takes care of any bears in need of rehabilitation in B.C. aside from those on the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. With volunteers all over the province, Langen posted a call out on Facebook, asking if any of their volunteers based in Prince Rupert were planning on going to Smithers soon. Carrie Breisch responded, saying she was driving from Prince Rupert to Prince George that very day.
“We were lucky,” Langen said. “She said she’d be happy to bring the bear along, so we didn’t have to drive out. We were quite grateful.”
The male and female cubs were reunited on Nov. 23, and while they’re hungry, Langen said they are both in good condition. The female is about 50 pounds underweight, but Langen said she’s not concerned as both cubs will be fed consistently over winter instead of hibernating.
“They will keep growing so that by the springtime they will be approximately the same size as healthy cubs are in hibernation,” she said. “Then they will be released back into the wild into their home territory. Not on Skidegate, but somewhere on Haida Gwaii where it’s suitable for them to be released.”
The first cub, who has been at the shelter for almost a week now, is heavier.
“He’s settled in really well, he’s eating up a storm and really liking that he’s getting breakfast and dinner served every day — he doesn’t have to go look for it.”
Elders in Haida Gwaii have named the two cubs, who have garnered a lot of attention on the “Northern Lights Wildlife Society” Facebook page. The male is called Gwaay Taan for “island bear”, and the female is Taan Sqwaana for “other bear”, since she was the second to be caught.
The Northern Lights Wildlife Society currently has six bear cubs that they’ll care for this winter, including the two from Haida Gwaii, two from Kitsumcalum and two from Kemano.
“We’ve had four cubs now in the last three days. It’s been slightly busy,” Langen said with a laugh.
“This is usually a busy time of the year, when the animals show up in the snow, when there’s no food anymore. They really show up because of their dark fur against the white snow and there’s not so much green grass anymore. The orphans become really visible.”
Donations can be made to the society, and they often post requests for food and equipment, such as dog kennels to be used as mini bear dens, on their Facebook page.