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Orphaned B.C. cub 'Littlefoot' rehabilitated by humans and is set to be released back into the wild

Littlefoot, the grizzly bear (Photo courtesy of Northern Lights Wildlife Society)

Littlefoot, the grizzly bear (Photo courtesy of Northern Lights Wildlife Society)

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When grizzly bear mothers die, their cubs are often killed or they spend their lives in captivity. However, a pilot project by the Smithers, B.C.-based Northern Lights Wildlife Society is trying to change the grim survival rates of orphaned cubs. The Society's "grizzly rehab" program takes in motherless cubs and raises them until they are old enough to be liberated into the wild. Their latest bear, Littlefoot, is currently on the road, travelling to Fernie, B.C., where he's expected to be released on Tuesday.

"[Littlefoot]'s not happy, but we don't aim to keep him happy, he's supposed to run away from us when we open the door," says Angelika Langden, Northern Lights Wildlife Society owner and operator.

"He growls and he rattles. We have a bear trap that we're transporting him in, so the trap rattles quite nicely when he grabs it and just shakes it."

Littlefoot is "microchipped, eartagged, tattooed and radio collared" for his trip from Kamloops to Fernie. (Photo courtesy of Northern Lights Wildlife Society)

Langden took in Littlefoot in June. The cub lost his mother last fall and hibernated on his own. He emerged emaciated. The Society took in the one-and-a-half-year-old bear and he grew from 49 lbs to 144.5 lbs.

The pilot project has previously sent out 12 grizzly bears back into the wild.

"Most of them did really good, a couple of them had not such a good outcome," says Langden. "We put radio collars on them, and we follow them, and we try to learn from the results and make the program better."

Two of the bears from the pilot project wandered into human camps too often and started eating food from camps and seeking out garbage. According to provincial law, bears who persistently pursue human interactions must be killed.

"There was no difference in those incidents than there would have been with any wild bear," Landgen says. "It's just a matter of personalities of the bears. That's something that we're learning."

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