Saskatoon

Orphaned bear cubs staying at Saskatoon Zoo before being released into wild

Three orphaned bear cubs have been granted a reprieve, thanks to the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo.

'There was no way that we were going to let those bears be euthanized,' says zoo manager

Three bear cubs will be living in the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo for more than a year before they are released into the wild. (Eunice Ketchemonia-Cote/Facebook)

Three orphaned bear cubs have been granted a reprieve, thanks to the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo.

Conservation officers shot and killed a mother bear on the Cote First Nation, located near Kamsack, Sask. The bear had become aggressive over several months and had been seen digging in garbage and walking near homes.

The bear's three cubs had been in the care of Living Sky Rehabilitation Centre since Monday, but the province told the group it would need to find a more permanent facility for the animals or they would be euthanized.

At the last minute, the Saskatoon Zoo stepped up and said it would keep the bears in its care.

"There was no way that we were going to let those bears be euthanized," zoo manager Tim Sinclair-Smith told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning. "We have excellent facilities here, we've got excellent professional staff to care for these animals"

The cubs will be held at the zoo for the next 14 months before they will be released into the wild. As a result, staff will be keeping the bears as far away from humans as possible.

"When I had a look at them, they were very fearful and that was good," he said. "As strange as that is, it's exactly what we want to see and we want them to stay that way."

The cubs will not be put on display to the public and will live in the zoo's quarantine facility. Zoo staff plan to be extra careful in planning the bears' diet.

"We need to make sure the diet is as close as possible to what they're going to be seeing [in the wild] so that they know what they're looking for when they go out there," he said. "Bananas, for example — it's highly unlikely they're going to find that."

Ultimately, Sinclair-Smith said it may be tempting for staff to interact with the animals, but that it was important for them to return to the wild.

"You have to learn that they're not yours," he said. "You don't own them."

The zoo will be working closely with staff from the Ministry of the Environment to develop a release plan. 

With file from The Canadian Press

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