Bear cubs overwhelm Vancouver Island rehab centre
Staff at an animal rescue centre on Vancouver Island says a government policy designed to help save baby bears has stretched its resources to the breaking point.
The North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre near Parksville is home to 10 young bears, all orphans whose mothers were either shot by hunters, or died by accident.
The centre has never cared for that many cubs at once in its 28-year history, according to its founder Robin Campbell, and the increase is due to a change in government policy.
"Gordon Campbell made this tremendous announcement a few years ago, that no bears would be put down, and at the same time, he took away our gaming grants," said Campbell
The centre says it costs close to $300,000 dollars a year to care for the animals and the government used to contribute an annual $30,000 dollar gaming grant.
Robin Campbell is hoping the province will step up with funding to care for the extra bears, and has asked the Ministry of Natural Resource Operations to resume its contribution.
"We're kind of desperate," he said.
The Ministry says it's reviewing that request.
In the meantime, the cubs are expected to spend between a year and 18 months at the centre before being released into the wild.
"Some of these cubs have been with their mothers who have taught them how to survive by rummaging through garbage and composts. They are in need of some behavioural management," the centre's website says.
"Other cubs have been found alone without a mother. They are very underweight and it is apparent they have been without maternal care for quite some time."
At least two bears that could not be rehabilitated for release were put down this year, the centre's website says.
With files from the CBC's Lisa Cordasco