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Alberta bear cub captured on Halloween ready to return to the wild

Bear cub seized in October and sent to rehabilitation facility in Southern Alberta will be released in late June
Fish and Wildlife Sheriff Danika Wittenberg with the Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Services holds a male black bear cub that was captured Halloween night in the Town of Westlock. The bear has been sent to a rehab center in southern Alberta and is almost ready to be released into the wild.

A young black bear cub that was captured in the Town of Westlock on Halloween night, has been rehabilitating at the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) in southern Alberta, and is almost ready to be released back into the wild.

The rehab centre north of Calgary has been taking care of the bear cub since his arrival last fall, when he weighed just 28 pounds and has been monitoring his progress and growth over the past several months.

Preparations for his release include conducting a couple of pre-release exams in his final weeks at the centre. The first exam was conducted May 29, and reported the bear’s weight at more than 132 pounds, He was said to be “very lanky” which means he will likely get much bigger once he is fully grown. 

“We do this a few weeks ahead of time just to make sure everything’s good, they’re healthy enough to go and we get a final weight on them,” said AIWC’s acting executive director, Katrina Terrill.

In addition, they have taken neck measurements for a collar, which he will wear for about a year after his release.  

“What our responsibility is right now is getting this guy ready to go and one of the main things we have to do at this point is make sure he is scared of people,” said Terrill, noting the bear cub’s progress and how he has grown over the past few months

“He did so, so well. We were extremely happy with him because he actually gained enough weight to go into a mini-hibernation. He was mostly asleep for about two and a half months, which was great, so we were very, very excited about that,” she said, noting the hibernation took place from Jan.10 to mid-March.

“He started coming out of the den for snacks around mid-March. We started him off with lots of fibrey foods, like they would get in the wild normally as well,” she added pointing out that much of a black bear’s diet is vegetarian. “He absolutely adores dandelions … and dandelions are also excellent in terms of getting their fur in good condition, so it’s very good that he likes them because that’s really helping him out with his fur growth.”

Terrill said that Alberta Fish and Wildlife are the ones responsible for capturing most of the bear cubs in the province and are also the ones who release them and conduct all of the post-release monitoring.

“The collar (the bear cub will wear) is a GPS collar, and it’s designed to fall all after about a year or so,” she said, noting fish and wildlife officials will retrieve the collar once it's off. They also monitor the bear throughout the year and the GPS collar helps inform officials where the bear is, what he’s doing and if they are stable. It also has a mortality signal, which will inform officials if the bear is deceased.

Westlock’s bear cub will be released in late June, following the end of the spring bear hunt in Alberta, which ends on June 15, said Terrill. He will be tranquillized, and a second pre-release exam, including blood samples, fur samples, paw prints and an ear tag, will be done before he is fitted with a collar. He is then awoken for transport to a new location near the spot where he was found in the Westlock region.  

“We always try and release the bears close to where they’re found, in a safe location for a black bear,” explained Terril, noting he was born at the end of January and is now a year and a half old, which is the time for cubs to be on their own. 

“It’s so wonderful to know that the entire community has made such a difference in this animal's life and in the lives of the people who cared about him as well and found him in Westlock and have really been invested in his story,” said Terrill. “We’re so grateful for all of the support that we’ve received and we are extremely thrilled that he is going to get another chance and getting back out into the wild.”        

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Kristine Jean

About the Author: Kristine Jean

Kristine Jean joined the Westlock News as a reporter in February 2022. She has worked as a multimedia journalist for several publications in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and enjoys covering community news, breaking news, sports and arts.
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