Injured bear too comfortable with humans, Calgary wildlife biologist worries

The young black bear, which has been spotted in a farmer's field along Highway 22 every few days for the past few months, favours one of its hind legs and doesn't allow it to touch the ground.

Provincial policy prevents the animal from being rehabilitated

This injured black bear has been seen limping through a field west of Calgary. (CBC)

A Calgary wildlife biologist is concerned that an injured black bear is becoming conditioned to human contact the longer it's allowed to remain in the wild without being rehabilitated, despite an Alberta government policy designed specifically to prevent that outcome.

The young black bear, which has been spotted every few days for months in a farmer's field along Highway 22, about 40 kilometres west of Calgary, favours one of its hind legs and doesn't allow the other to touch the ground.

"We really, really hope that veterinarian intervention can happen here," Lisa Dahlseide told CBC News on Friday.

She says the bear has been showing signs of chronic pain and unusual behaviour, like excessively licking his wounded leg.

A concerned citizen left a deer carcass in the field, but it was removed by Alberta Fish and Wildlife, Dahlseide says.

"He is definitely conditioned to that presence of humans, he doesn't even lift his head with people approaching the fence. So that's a concern. We want to maintain that wildness. So I don't feel that he's getting that opportunity being in the position he's in."

Dahlseide is part of a group trying to convince Alberta Fish and Wildlife to allow them to move the bear to a nearby rehabilitation centre in Cochrane, where she says veterinarians have volunteered to care for the bear free of charge. 

Concerned citizens have set up this temporary shelter for an injured bear in Alberta, but the bear has yet to make use of the man-made cave. (Laurel Ambrose)

But she says the province is unwilling to budge from its position that human intervention can threaten the bear's chances to hibernate and heal.

In 2010, provincial legislation changed to prevent Alberta animal rehabilitation centres from caring for bears. 

Rehabilitated bears can face challenges reintegrating into the wild and have a significantly lower survival rate, but the policy has also led to bears being euthanized rather than rehabilitated. 

Manitoba and Ontario do not have similar policies, and both provinces have bear rehabilitation centres.

Dahlseide's group has created an online petition asking Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips to issue a temporary shelter permit for the bear. 

Over 8,500 people had signed the petition as of Friday.

"I just really hope that they can change their position because I feel that's the best option for this bear and everybody wants to see him saved," Dahlseide says.

In the meantime, a group of local volunteers concerned for the bear's safety have made a temporary wooden shelter to provide the bear a spot to hibernate.

But a man-made shelter might actually be a dangerous move.

University of Alberta biological science professor Colleen Cassady St. Clair told the Calgary Eyeopener earlier in November that a man-made den could attract predators that might prey on a young, injured bear.

The bear has yet to make use of the shelter.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener