Justin Reusch with Jordan and Athena.

Firefighter scales trees to save cubs

A local volunteer firefighter was part of a bear cub rescue mission

“We get the odd call to rescue a cat out of a tree or something like that, but not usually baby bears,” says Port Hardy volunteer firefighter Justin Reusch. Reusch, who works for the Town of Port Hardy, was one of the firefighters who assisted Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant on July 5 in removing two twin bear cubs from trees above a mobile home, kicking off a now infamous controversy over Casavant’s subsequent suspension.

Reusch says that himself and other firefighters were assisting Casavant in accessing the tree so he could get a clear shot to the bears to tranquilize them, with Reusch donning gear and climbing a tree next to the bears. He was warned by Casavant to be careful because even though the bears mouths are only filled with gums at this point in their lives, their large claws are extremely sharp.

Casavant expressed that it would be ideal to get the bears down from the tree without tranquilizing them as the tranquilizer is very hard on a bear of that small. The team set up a ladder, but the bears just kept moving further and further up the tree. One bear was eventually pushed out of the side of a tree onto the roof of the mobile home and then scurried off the roof and onto the walkway where he was caught. The other bear still in the tree was also caught using a pole with a loop and brought down and placed in a blanket held above the ground. Reusch says that even though it looks like an intense way of getting the bears out of the trees, that the bears are resilient and were not hurt in the process.

“It’s pretty phenomenal to see the amount of support,” says Reusch, adding that the issue of Casavant’s ongoing paid suspension is something he is concerned about and following very closely. “The whole kill the bear now and do an investigation later does not really sit well with me.”

 

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