British Columbia

Rescued bear cub dies in accident at Vancouver Island wildlife rescue

The bear cub died of asphyxiation after getting his head stuck in a rope attached to a toy in his enclosure.

Cub named Malcolm got tangled up in a rope in his enclosure and died of asphyxiation

John Forde holds the bear cub after rescuing it from an island near Tofino. (Jennifer Steven)

An emaciated bear cub that was rescued from an island near Tofino, B.C., and who had overcome the odds to survive has died in an accident at a wildlife rescue centre on Vancouver Island.

The bear cub named Malcolm was rescued in May. He was found beside his dead mother and was captured by whalewatchers.

Malcolm was taken to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington, B.C., where he was slowly nursed back to health.

Recently, he had been thriving and was moved to a larger enclosure where bears are prepared for release back into the wild.

The enclosure has more space and enrichment and gives the bears less contact with people.

Staff checked on Malcolm on the morning of his death two weeks ago and saw he was playing with a toy as he often did.

That afternoon, they checked again and noticed Malcolm was on the ground and was not moving.

'It was unbelievable'

A staff member entered the enclosure and discovered the bear had gotten his head and neck tangled in a small rope handle attached to a plastic buoy that was used as a toy.

He died from asphyxiation, said Robin Campbell, the founder of the rescue centre.

"It was unbelievable. One minute he was playing and it happened so quick, and he even perished so quickly." 

The rescue centre has been rehabilitating bears for 20 years and has never had an injury or death from the rope handles on the buoys, Campbell said.

The rope handles were removed from all the bear enclosures following the accident, he said.

Difficult loss for staff

The loss of the bear cub has hit staff at the rescue centre hard, Campbell said.

"You build a relationship, even though you are not trying to build a relationship. A lot of emotion goes into it," he said.

"It's the last thing you expect, because he had gone through so much. The bear was so healthy. And everything was a go. And something like that happens. There's not words."

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service says it was notified about the cub's death and determined it was an unfortunate accident.


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