Manitoba

Orphaned cubs settle into Manitoba's 1st bear rehab centre

The Manitoba Bear Rehabilitation Centre has its first two orphaned cubs.

Manitoba Bear Rehabilitation Centre started after rescue of black bear cub nicknamed Makoon

Until now, Manitoba did not have a centre authorized to prepare orphaned bears for the wild. (Manitoba Bear Rehabilitation Centre)

Manitoba's new bear rehabilitation centre has its first two orphaned cubs.

The black bears, estimated to be a couple of months old, were rescued in southern Manitoba after their mother was found dead, a spokesperson said.

The cubs are being bottle-fed for now and will eventually be weaned onto berries and other natural foods with the aim of releasing them back into the wild in fall.

The black bears, estimated to be a couple of months old, were rescued in southern Manitoba after their mother was found dead. (Manitoba Bear Rehabilitation Centre)

The Manitoba Bear Rehabilitation Centre is on farmland just north of Stonewall owned by Judy Stearns and her husband Roger. The couple came up with the idea of a bear sanctuary in 2012, after a black bear cub nicknamed Makoon was rescued from a ditch in St. Malo five years ago.

Rene Dubois found and named the bear, caring for it for almost two weeks before conservation officials seized it, housed it at Winnipeg's zoo and then later released it in a remote part of the province.

Stearns helped organize a rally to protest the release, saying Makoon was too young and needed rehabilitation first.

Manitoba did not have a centre authorized to prepare orphaned bears for the wild, however, and the bear was eventually set free.

The cubs are being bottle-fed for now and will eventually be weaned onto berries and other natural foods with the aim of releasing them back into the wild in the fall. (Manitoba Bear Rehabilitation Centre)

That prompted Stearns to get the ball rolling on the sanctuary by approaching Julie Woodyer, the campaign director at Zoocheck, a Canadian-based animal welfare charity.

In May 2017, they applied for a special zoning permit to build the self-funded centre on the farmland. The council for the Rural Municipality of Rockwood approved it unanimously and the province recently issued a permit for it to operate.

The centre also got a $50,000 boost from former Price is Right star Bob Barker, a longtime supporter of Zoocheck.

"We are so pleased that orphaned cubs now have a proper facility to live in prior to being returned to the wild," said Woodyer. "We no longer have to worry about orphaned black bear cubs from Manitoba being sent to zoos."

The organization also has retained the services of bear rehabilitation expert John Beecham to develop protocols for rehabilitating bear cubs for return to the wild.

For instance, their ​interaction with people is being extremely limited to avoid the bears being imprinted with humans.

"[The facility] is not open to the public for people to visit, because it's the best interest in the bears to essentially, you know, not be around people," Woodyer said. "We want them in the long run to avoid being around people."

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