Petition urges Alberta to rethink restrictions on rehabilitating bears

Calgary Liberal MLA David Swann tabled a petition in the Alberta Legislature Monday, urging the provincial government to reassess the restrictions on rehabilitating bears and other large wildlife.

'We're almost the only province in the country that doesn't rehabilitate large animals,' said David Swann

The debate over Alberta's current policy was sparked when three orphaned cubs were found locked in a bathroom in Banff. The cubs were shipped to a sanctuary in Ontario for rehabilitation because rehabilitating them is forbidden in Alberta. (Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary)

Calgary Liberal MLA David Swann tabled a petition in the Alberta Legislature Monday, urging the provincial government to reassess the restrictions on rehabilitating bears and other large wildlife.

"We're almost the only province in the country that doesn't rehabilitate large animals, ostensibly because the government is worried about safety and infection control, but there's no evidence that this is a serious concern," Swann said.

The province's current policy, which was enacted in 2010, prevents orphaned bears and other large species from being rescued and rehabilitated in Alberta facilities.

In Canada, ​B.C., Saskatchewan and Ontario allow animals like orphaned cubs to be rehabilitated, while Alberta and Manitoba do not.

Swann's petition was signed by 3,234 Albertans and organized by Laurel Amberose and Lisa Dahlseide — the wildlife biologist who was advocating for the province to intervene in the case of an orphaned bear with an injured leg that was seen living in a farmer's field west of Calgary in the fall.

"In most cases, it's not a natural situation that landed the animal to be injured or orphaned," Dahlseide said. "Letting nature take its course is not ethical when it's humans that have caused the problem."

In the fall, wildlife biologist Lisa Dahlseide was urging the province to intervene in the case of an injured black bear seen limping in a field along Highway 22 west of Calgary. (Rob Evans)

The debate over Alberta's current policy was sparked in April 2017 after three bear cubs were discovered locked in a public washroom in Banff.

To keep the bears from being euthanized — because Alberta's policy forbids rehabilitating orphaned bear cubs — the cubs were sent to Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Ontario.

Dahlseide said euthanizing orphaned and injured bears is both unethical and unnecessary.

"There are 10 wildlife facilities in Alberta that are able to take in these animals … the population, the voting public does not support the killing of orphans. They largely support having wildlife rehabilitation," she said.

If the government follows the request laid out in the petition, wildlife specialists would be allowed to intervene and provide medical assistance to large animals.