Wildlife rehabilitation facilities in Alberta will once again be able to accept orphaned black bear cubs, thanks to a new policy announced by the province April 18.
According to the press release, an approved facility will be able to work with Alberta Fish and Wildlife staff to rehabilitate black bears less than one year of age and ensure they are safely returned to the wild. The policy also includes a draft protocol that dictates requirements around feeding, enclosures, veterinary care and interactions with humans.
“They really did their due diligence, there’s nothing in there that is unreasonable at all,” said wildlife biologist Lisa Dahlseide. “There are even some things I wouldn’t have thought to include in the protocol, but that really improve the well-being of the bears in our care.”
In 2010, she said the province imposed restrictions on the rehabilitation of large wildlife in Alberta, including species like black bears, grizzly bears, cougars, and coyotes. According to Dahlseide, this ban was introduced to address fears the animals posed a risk to human safety, either through being habituated to people or transferring diseases. However, she said there is no data to support the “opinion.”
“My biggest concern, still, is the rest of the species that are banned,” she said. “I would like to see them lift the whole ban and then work on protocols for each individual species – we know it takes a long time to develop those, and we don’t want to see lives lost in the meantime.”
While Dahlseide said she has been fighting the ban since it was initially introduced, members of the public became invested in the issue after an injured black bear named Russell was observed living in a Springbank field. She said she hopes the public will continue to fight on behalf of the animals that remain on the banned species list.
“We hope people really take ownership of this situation, like they did for the black bears, and let their MLAs and Minister Shannon Phillips know this is something that is really important to Albertans – and it is a voting issue,” Dahlseide said. “In North America, most jurisdictions rehabilitate all our banned species, and the smaller-scale studies that have been done do reflect that these releases are successful.
“It’s time for Alberta to say enough is enough. Our Alberta Wildlife Act states that all species of animals that are injured, orphaned or diseased, or otherwise unable to survive on their own, are able to be rehabilitated, so we want to see that happen.”