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No B.C. cash for cubs

MLA Scott Fraser and Robin Campbell examine two underweight bear cubs being cared for at the North Island Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. -
MLA Scott Fraser and Robin Campbell examine two underweight bear cubs being cared for at the North Island Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.
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The B.C. government’s stated policy calling for the rehabilitation of orphaned bear cubs is all very fine, says MLA Scott Fraser, but the reality is very different.

Fraser said the government relies on facilities such as the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre to rehabilitate orphaned bear cubs, but provides virtually no funding to do so.

“If the government is not providing any funding to do the work that they say they are mandated to do, then in reality, the de facto position is to destroy orphaned baby bears.That’s the reality and they should say that and let us have that debate.”

Speaking on a tour of the wildlife recovery centre in Errington Friday, Fraser said the facility receives no core funding from the government and a mere $30,000 from gaming grants — a total slated to shrink to $20,000 next year and nothing after that.

There are currently seven cubs in the facility, each costing an average of $40 per day to feed. With more bears expected, the costs are mounting alarmingly, said facility spokesperson Robin Campbell.

“The $30,000 helped us out a bit, but it’s going to cost us about $60,000 to deal with these seven bears, and that money also has to go to look after the eagles and other animals,” Campbell said. “It’s not just the bears. Then there are the medical expenses. I had to get the vet in today to have a good look at one that is quite small and we also just treated the bears for tapeworm and roundworm. It’s very easy for the cost to get up there very quickly.”

The impending loss of the gaming grant, Campbell said, comes on top of an already tight situation faced by private donors, who provide most of the cash to run the facility.

“There are a lot of people losing their jobs,” he said, “so the person giving us $10 or $20 per month can’t give it anymore. As well, groups such as the Vancouver Foundation can’t give out grants like they used to. The whole system is like a game of dominos and we are in trouble.”

Fraser said the lack of funding from the province is particularly galling, considering the fact that in 2008 the province spent $40,000 on a study to look into what should be done with orphaned cubs and then ignored its findings.

“Christopher Parker, a bear expert, told government in his report they should be funding licensed bear rehabilitation facilities like this, as it’s the most efficient bang for their buck,” Fraser said. “They wasted $40,000 on this report. That’s bad management.”

Instead, he said, the government planned to spend $400,000 on a facility on Grouse Mountain, a facility it eventually backed away from and then the funding vanished.

“What really bothers me is I trusted these people,” Campbell said. “If they are doing this over a lousy $400,000, what are they doing with millions?”

David Currie, the public affairs officer for the Ministry of Natural Resources said the ministry’s position is clear.

“In the uncertainty of our current economic times, government has had to make some tough decisions,” he said. “Though the worthwhile work of the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre, and all wildlife rehabilitation centres across the province do, we do not fund rehabilitation centres. We are committed to ensure funding is available for our highest social priorities, for example, youth, health, social services and education.”

Currie stressed Vancouver Island has a healthy and sustainable black bear population and noted the Ministry of Natural Resource Operations is concerned with maintaining the health of overall wildlife populations, not individual animals.

However, he said the ministry supports wildlife rehabilitators by providing permits that enable them to accept, possess, care for and release wildlife and by providing standards, policy and procedures to govern these activities.

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