British Columbia

Got food? These orphaned bear cubs are hungry

Twenty hungry bear cubs at a northern wildlife shelter need sustenance to get through the summer — and a group of volunteers that includes gardeners, truckers, and apple pickers is stepping up to help. 

Northern Lights wildlife shelter needs fruits and vegetables to feed 20 black and grizzly bear cubs

The number of bear cubs at the Northern Lights Wildlife Society has more than doubled since last year. (Northern Lights Wildlife Society/Contributed )

Twenty hungry bear cubs at a northern wildlife shelter need sustenance to get through the summer — and a group of volunteers that includes gardeners, truckers, and apple pickers is stepping up to help. 

The number of cubs at the Northern Lights Wildlife Society has more than doubled since last year, according to Angelika Langen, the shelter's founder and manager, who has been rehabilitating bears and returning them to the wild for 28 years.

Instead of the usual eight cubs, the wildlife shelter in Smithers, B.C., is now caring for 18 black bear cubs and two grizzly bear cubs from across northern B.C. And that number is expected to rise in the fall.

The shelter needs food donations year-round. But with so many mouths to feed right now, the non-profit is spending almost $200 a day on apples, cantaloupes, carrots, and grapes.  

'Whatever people grow in their garden ... we can use'

"If people can spare berries or cherries or zucchini," said Langen. "Whatever people grow in their garden outside of potatoes, we can use."

The orphaned cubs also need to eat fish and unprocessed meat, she said. The youngest cubs eat oatmeal. 

A bear cub at a northern wildlife refuge feasts on donated berries trucked in by a local company. (Northern Lights Wildlife Society/Contributed )

Many orphaned bears lose their mothers to road collisions, said Langen. Other bears are destroyed if they become bold and pushy around properties inhabited by humans.

Often, those bears are attracted to places where residents haven't properly contained food that bears like such as bird seed and apples.

Crystal Beddome doesn't even own a fruit tree, but the Prince George woman has collected several tons of apples for the bears over the last few years.

Beddome is spurred on by the hope the orphaned and injured cubs will get enough to eat before they hibernate.

So she helps other people pick fruit from their trees and solicits garden donations from people in Prince George.

"The response has been overwhelming," said Beddome, who has set up fruit intake bins at her workplace and sends out about 226 kg of apples a day.

The fruit can't be rotten or unripe. And it has to be securely packed in cardboard boxes for transport to Smithers. 

Truckers ferry fruit and orphaned cubs

The fruit freight gets hauled for free by Ray Bandstra's Smithers-based trucking company.

The president of Bandstra Transportation Systems says his truckers first started helping the shelter when they shuttled orphaned bear cubs from the wilderness to the wildlife refuge in the back of their 18-wheelers.

Crystal Beddome helped pick and gather apples to donate to orphaned bear cubs at a refuge in Smithers, B.C. Her Prince George workplace has set up donation bins, and a trucking company delivers the fruit for free. (Crystal Beddome/Contributed)

"The cubs would be in a small cage in the back of the trailer and the driver would just check on it once in a while," Bandstra said. 

His trucks normally haul building supplies, auto parts, and mine supplies. Now, in addition to carting cubs, the trucks are delivering the bears' meals to their door. 

"We help out wherever we can see a need," said Bandstra.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Betsy Trumpener

Reporter-Editor, CBC News

Betsy Trumpener has won numerous journalism awards, including a national network award for radio documentary and the Adrienne Clarkson Diversity Award. Based in Prince George, B.C., Betsy has reported on everything from hip hop in Tanzania to B.C.'s energy industry and the Paralympics.

Sarah Penton

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