Port Hardy bear cubs Jordan and Athena are settling in nicely at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre (NIWRC). The cubs should be at the facility, located in Errington (near Coombs), for the next 18 months, before being released back into the wild, unless the province steps in.
“From what we’ve read, they [government officials] still haven’t decided [the cubs’ fate]. I wonder who they are talking to,” NIWRC Wildlife Manager Robin Campbell said.
“We are permitted through the Ministry of Environment. Could they come and take them? Yes. It’s kind of comical in a way, it would be a real slap in the face to them to do that,” said Campbell.
Athena and Jordan are not the only babies currently calling the facility home. “We have seven right now.”
Campbell said cubs are born in January or February and estimates Jordan and Athena are about four to five months old.
“They’re [black bears] born squirrel size, blind and hairless,” said Campbell.
In order to keep cubs wild, staff “has very little contact with them.”
Everything the cubs need to survive is put into the enclosure with them. This includes wood and branches and the cubs will instinctually build a den for themselves. That task “keeps them busy. They are very intelligent animals.”
Food is another necessity that is provided.
“Diet is very important,” Campbell said.
“In berry season we feed a lot of berries,” said Campbell. The cubs are also fed grass and green vegetables such as lettuce, and leaves off branches, and lots of salmon and herring. As they get ready for winter, the cubs build up their fat stores and as the temperature drops, they will go into their den for their dormancy, or hibernation period.
Black bears are one of the miracles of this earth, he explained, due to the fact that the type of hibernation they go into allows them to take on fat and store it. That fat gives their body enough nutrition to make it through the winter. “They can even go down for six months,” he said.
When it is time for the cubs to be put back in the wild, “it’s a conservation officer that takes them out. They are our lifelines. We can’t have some guy sitting behind a desk come out and help us,” he said.
“I’ve been doing rehab for 30 years and we’ve always relied on the Conservation Officer for bringing them to us and they are a major part on the release. They’re the ones that know where there is good bear habitat,” he said adding Jordan and Athena “will go back to the North Island.”
Campbell said the support for the centre and the money being raised through the North Island Gazette Bear Cub Fund is incredible “I’m pretty emotional actually.” What means the most to Campbell is that “it’s not like big people coming to the plate. It’s people that give $10 dollars, $20, $50” whatever they can afford, he said.
“It’s not like we have some big corporate sponsor out there or the government is giving us money, because they are not.” The touching messages that have been written, and the reaffirmation of the work the centre is doing, “keeps us going and helps us to stay the course.”