Nova Scotia

Wildlife sanctuary owner calls for change after orphaned bear cub euthanized

The recent euthanization of an orphaned bear by the Department of Lands and Forestry highlights the need for overhauling the policy surrounding rehabilitating orphaned wildlife, says the owner of a Nova Scotia wildlife sanctuary.

'We would like the opportunity to help these animals in any way we can,' says Hope Swinimer

Hope Swinimer, the owner of Hope for Wildlife in Seaforth, says the facility is capable of rehabilitating black bears. (CBC)

The recent euthanization of an orphaned bear by the Department of Lands and Forestry highlights the need for overhauling the policy surrounding rehabilitating orphaned wildlife, says the owner of a Nova Scotia wildlife sanctuary.

"We really just want permission to help and to give an alternative," Hope Swinimer, the owner of Hope for Wildlife, told CBC's Maritime Noon on Thursday.

"If [the Department of Land and Forestry wants] to continue to do the practise the way they do, that's fine. But we would like the opportunity to help these animals in any way we can and get them back out to the natural world."

Swinimer said a few weeks ago, a black bear cub was brought to her facility in Seaforth around midnight. An on-site veterinarian checked the cub when it arrived. Swinimer said the cub wasn't sick, but was a bit dehydrated and lethargic.

She believes the cub was orphaned after its mother died.

This black bear cub was brought to Hope for Wildlife a few weeks ago after its mother was reportedly killed. (Submitted by Hope Swinimer)

"It would be pretty hard to get a baby cub unless it was in distress and needed help," Swinimer said.

She called the Department of Lands and Forestry the following morning to report that a black bear cub had been dropped off.

Swinimer said the cub was picked up by the department that morning and was later euthanized.

The Department of Lands and Forestry said that public safety is its top priority and that handling black bears is potentially dangerous and can have unpredictable results.

"Relocation of bears is not a viable option, as they will likely have the same issues elsewhere," spokesperson Lisa Jarrett said in an email. "With this in mind, and because Nova Scotia has a healthy and abundant bear population, there is no conservation rationale for rehabilitating bears in Nova Scotia."

Jarrett said there have been a number of reported instances in the last few weeks of bears showing aggressive behaviour and that people need to treat bears with respect and caution.  

The department will reach out to Hope for Wildlife to discuss their concerns, she said. 

As of May 2017, the province allowed for the rehabilitation of orphaned wildlife and had qualified facilities to hold and rehabilitate wildlife for release.

Black bears are indigenous to Nova Scotia. (The Associated Press)

"However, as bears quickly become used to humans, there is a high chance that they can become nuisance animals in a province like Nova Scotia, where we have a much smaller landscape with fewer remote areas compared to other provinces," a government spokesperson said in a statement at the time.

Swinimer said she has worked with sick black bears in the past and they can be rehabilitated without influencing their population and in a way so the bears do not become attached to humans, which is a common concern.

Swinimer said she expects the government to set high standards for wildlife sanctuaries.

"Tell us exactly what we need to build for safety reasons and we're more than happy to comply," she said. "But what we're hoping for is the right to do it and with the set of standards to meet to be able to do it."

She said these situations typically stay between the sanctuary and the Department of Lands and Forestry, but this particular story was leaked online.

With files from CBC's Maritime Noon

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