Three orphaned bear cubs are settling into their new home up north after being rescued and relocated from 108 Mile Ranch last week.
Volunteers from the Northern Lights Wildlife Society (NLWS) in Smithers were alerted to the orphaned cubs July 26, after the mother bear was struck and killed by a vehicle on Highway 97 near the 108 Heritage Site.
After co-ordinating with local conservation officers, who granted the NLWS permission to attempt to catch the bears, volunteers arrived Monday evening to set traps for the six-month-old cubs.
“We had a team there that evening with a trap, and the first cub was caught overnight,” NLWS co-founder Angelika Langen said.
The second and third cub were trapped the next day, following the arrival of another volunteer with additional equipment, Langen said. The bears were then transported eight hours north to the NLWS shelter in Smithers.
“We were lucky that the sow was still there so we were able to set the traps up right beside her,” Langen explained, noting a special milk-replacement formula was used to lure cubs.
“We knew the cubs would be wanting to nurse and be close to their mom, and we would have a really good chance of getting them into the traps in that case.”
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Langen said the bear cubs – all boys, named Rosco, Randolph and Finn – weighed in at over 30 pounds each, a very healthy size for cubs at that age.
“Most of the cubs we get at this time are around 20 pounds, so this was an extremely good mother who took very good care of the cubs,” she said.
The boys are settling in well in their new home, where they will stay until next June. Langen said they will be released back into the South Cariboo – although a greater distance from the highway – at around the age that they would normally be leaving their mother.
The cubs rescued from 108 Mile are three of dozens of bears that the NLWS will take in over the course of a year. The volunteer-run organization has been rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife in the province for 31 years and runs solely on donations from the public.
According to Langen, the group averages 40 to 50 cub rescues each year, and depending on the circumstances of the relocation, each cub can cost the group $2,500 to $3,000 by the time it is released back into the wild.
“We have a wonderful group of volunteers that we’ve trained and who can help out. It’s a community effort and it’s province-wide,” Langen said. “To help these animals, it’s the most important thing. It’s everything.”