SYLVIA CAMPBELLSpecial to The NEWS
For the past 20 years, the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre has been rehabilitating black bears on Vancouver Island. It has always been a controversial subject between wildlife rehabilitators and those who believe that captive bears cannot successfully be released back out into the wild.
Finally after three decades a research article has been released speaking to this subject and the reading is very interesting. John Beecham, an expert in these matters and mentor of our founder Robin Campbell, has finally made his finding available to the general public.
The rehabilitation of bears for release is expanding globally because of increased human interaction. Data gathered from around the world show orphaned bear cubs are kept in captivity for two to 14 months and are released in areas with suitable habitat components.
The report examined the fates of 550 captive-reared bears raised in 12 geographically disparate areas across three continents under a variety of management regimes in an attempt to evaluate the efficacy of raising orphaned bear cubs for release back to the wild. Their analyses reduce many uncertainties surrounding the fate of captive-reared bears and provide evidence that releasing orphaned bears back to the wild is a defensible management alternative.
Captive-reared bears released to the wild met the primary and secondary definitions of success; survival rates, human conflict levels, and reproduction by captive-reared and released bears in this study were comparable to those reported for wild bears.
The options when faced with an orphaned bear cub are: leave them and let nature take its course, put them in permanent captivity, euthanize them, or place them in a captive-rearing facility for release back to the wild at a future date.
The North Island Wildlife Recovery Association responded many years ago to the public outcry and demand for giving orphaned bear cubs a second chance. At that time, founder Robin Campbell met with government officials along with other interested parties to successfully devise a plan to change the Wildlife Act.
The society has spent more than $400,000 of public money to build a treatment centre, three bear enclosures for infant bears, junior bears and bears being prepared for release. Bears may stay at the centre for up to 18 months depending on the scarcity or abundance of food sources upon release.
The study just released gives the credibility that NIWRA has have been looking for. The centre’s main goal is to release these cubs to continue their lives as they were designed to do and to keep the public safe. To support this bear rehabilitation program, please visit NIWRA’s website at www.niwra.org – Bear Share Program.
— Sylvia Campbell, Wild ‘n Free columnist for The NEWS, is the co-founder of NIWRA.