British Columbia

Freezing bear cub was covered in ice after conservation officer dropped it off, concerned rescue group says

A B.C. animal rescue group is calling for better training of conservation officers after a sedated bear cub was brought in covered in ice after riding in the back of an open truck. 

Wildlife worker says cub could have died riding on a open truck bed in frigid weather

A black bear cub, like these, arrived at Critter Care in Langley on Jan. 14. (Julie Mackey)

A B.C. animal rescue group is calling for better training of conservation officers after a sedated bear cub was brought in covered in ice after riding in the back of an open truck. 

Nathan Wagstaffe, a senior wildlife technician at Critter Care Wildlife Society in Langley, said the black bear cub arrived at the centre the evening of Jan. 14.

The year-old bear was driven there in an open-sided kennel in the bed of a conservation officer's truck, he said. It was –9 C and the bear was in rough shape, Wagstaffe said.

"He had ice ... attached to his fur," he said.

"His temperature wasn't regulated at all. His core body temperature was extremely low for a bear with the added implications of being over-sedated."

The bear, which weighed about 40 pounds, had been given about three times the necessary amount of sedation, Wagstaffe said. Animals cannot regulate their body temperature when sedated, he added.

"He could have died," he said. "I'm surprised he survived."

It's not clear where the bear came from or why it was on its own, but Wagstaffe said he'd heard a report about an orphaned bear cub in Port Moody, B.C., days earlier.

The bear was brought into the clinic and staff worked to warm him up. Wagstaffe said he tended to the cub every two hours for 24 hours to get him on track again. 

Wagstaffe said he offered the conservation officer blankets to wrap around the kennel next time, but the officer said they wouldn't be necessary.

Wagstaffe said it's not the first time he's been concerned about the care an animal has received from a conservation officer. He's calling on the province to revisit its policies for animal care. 

"We are just done with this," he said. "We want COs to take proper care of these animals."

Officers trained in proper animal care, province says

In an emailed statement, Ministry of Environment spokesman David Karn said the bear was tranquilized "to ensure its safety" before it was placed into the enclosure in the truck and brought to the rehabilitation facility. 

"Conservation officers are trained in the proper handling and care of animals, which includes guidance from our provincial wildlife veterinarian on the safe transportation of bear cubs to rehabilitation centres," Karn said.

Wagstaffe said Critter Care currently has 29 bears in its care, all under a year old.

The bear brought in this week is recovering and doing well, he said. The bear will be rehabilitated and will likely be released in the summer.

Proper care early on can make all the difference in the outcome of an animal, he added. 

"What is the point of sedating a bear, driving it out here if it's just going to die because of the negligence?" he said.

"There's no point. Might as well have just shot it. It's ridiculous."

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