Beyond Your Backyard - The Bear Facts - Black Bears In SK

By Kimberly J. Epp

The news has been inundated recently with the story of 3 orphaned bear cubs. Sadly, these bears became orphaned due to humans, as their mother was shot just for looking for food. We need to better live with wildlife, as we are constantly taking away their habitat.

The mother was shot at the Cote First Nation by a Conservation Officer. This was a totally preventable situation. As a side note, Canada produces the most garbage per capita in the world. We need to change our ways!

The three orphaned cubs, soon after being brought to the Living Sky Wildlife Rehab Centre (photo courtesey Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation).

The three orphaned cubs, soon after being brought to the Living Sky Wildlife Rehab Centre (photo courtesey Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation).

Jan Shadick, of Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation was initially brought these three scared little orphans. Jan cares for a variety of wildlife in Saskatoon, but her facility is not equipped to care for bears. As a time limit was given to find them a home, with the hope of reintroduction to the wild after about 14 months, they were then brought to the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo. We thank the zoo for sparing their lives - and offering their help.

Years ago, orphaned wildlife were brought to the Saskatoon Zoo for rehab, prior to the introduction of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan. Now we have specialized rehabbers that care for certain wildlife (photo via Kimberly Epp, circa 1992)

Years ago, orphaned wildlife were brought to the Saskatoon Zoo for rehab, prior to the introduction of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan. Now we have specialized rehabbers that care for certain wildlife (photo via Kimberly Epp, circa 1992)

The cubs were transported to the Saskatoon Zoo last Wednesday. While Living Sky is pleased that the 3 orphaned bear cubs will not be euthanized, they feel that the Saskatoon Zoo is not an ideal place to be conducting wildlife rehabilitation. A temporary situation, yes, but in the long term proper experience is required to care for the bear cubs.

Please take a few moments and write to the Saskatchewan Environment Minister, Dustin Duncan (env.minister@gov.sk.ca), and thank him for saving those cubs...but also please be sure to ask him to work with the licensed wildlife rehabbers in the province to ensure bear rehabilitation options are available for all cubs now and in the future. Your voice can make a difference.

Baby Black Bears sleeping (photo source unknown)

Baby Black Bears sleeping (photo source unknown)

Healing Haven Wildlife Rescue Inc. in Dorintosh, SK, has been rehabbing orphaned bear cubs in Saskatchewan for several years, and are already in the process of building a new 5,000 square foot enclsoure for bear rehabilitation. Please be sure that these resources are not wasted, since they are experienced in bear rehabilitation and in the best position to care for orphaned bear cubs.

Cubs are born in their dens in January or February, and weigh less than a pound at birth. The mama bear gains weight in the fall to sustain her and her cubs over the long winter months. The adult bears will not eat or drink for six months. Black Bear adults weigh over 200 kilograms. They will lose up to half of their body weight during hibernation. Although they breed in late Spring, the fertilized eggs do not start to develop until the female enters her den in mid-October. A typical litter size is two to three cubs, but as many as five have been observed.

A newborn Black Bear cub, weighing only a pound (photo via Black Bear Rescue Manitoba).

A newborn Black Bear cub, weighing only a pound (photo via Black Bear Rescue Manitoba).

During hibernation, a bear's heartbeat drops from about 40 beats per minute to 10 beats per minute. The cubs stay with their mother for at least a year. When they are about nine months old, they hibernate again with her in the winter den. The following spring, when the cubs are ready to leave, the mother breeds again. This is why black bears usually only have cubs every second year.

Black Bears are omnivores and scavengers. They eat almost anything, which is why garbage attracts them, and gets them into trouble with humans. They dig up roots, eat buds, berries, leaves, carrion, fish, birds and animals. They eat bird eggs and the young of various animals. They even eat insects, and have sometimes been observed tearing up ant hills.

A bear supplementing its diet with dandelions (photo by Sylvia Dolson).

A bear supplementing its diet with dandelions (photo by Sylvia Dolson).

A varied diet makes for a healthy bear, and even dandelions are an important part of their diet. Dandelions provide antioxidant relief, help aid in digestion, and provide various health benefits, which work to keep their coats healthy. The mother bear teaches the cubs which foods to eat. As with many wild animals kept in zoo settings, it is difficult to provide the varied diet that the animals require. Lack of a varied diet often results in illness and premature death in zoo animals.

Black Bear cub learning to climb (photo by Larry Tibet)

Black Bear cub learning to climb (photo by Larry Tibet)

Bears can live up to 25 years in the wild, although the usual lifespan is 10 years. They play an important part in the ecosystem. They help to clean up carcasses and keep the populations of deer species in check. They are a good indicator species of healthy environments, and are keystone predators. Most bears would rather run than encounter humans, so it is best that they keep a natural fear of humans. Bears have few predators, and sadly their main threat are humans.

Mother Black Bear with her cubs in their den in Alaska. The fact that the USA will allow the hunting of defenseless mothers and cubs in their dens is absolutely appalling (photo source unknown)

Mother Black Bear with her cubs in their den in Alaska. The fact that the USA will allow the hunting of defenseless mothers and cubs in their dens is absolutely appalling (photo source unknown)

If you would like to help the three orphaned cubs, consider donating to Healing Haven. Their website link is; http://healinghavenwildlife.wix.com/healinghaven. They can be reached at (306) 240-5459. The cub's best chance at proper rehabilitation is with someone who has experience working with them; and this is most certainly Mark at Healing Haven.

If you would like to help the orphaned and injured wildlife of Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation, contact (306) 281-0554 or visit their website at; http://www.livingskywildliferehabilitation.org/. Both Living Sky and Healing Haven have Facebook pages where you can follow the stories of their rescues.

Baby Black Bears playing. Can there be anything cuter? Play is important in teaching a young bear how to survive in an ever-changing world; one that is not always hospitable to bears (photo source unknown)

Baby Black Bears playing. Can there be anything cuter? Play is important in teaching a young bear how to survive in an ever-changing world; one that is not always hospitable to bears (photo source unknown)

Within Moose Jaw, we have Wild and Cared Free Wildlife Rehabilitation, run by Dr. Melanie Blager of the Moose Jaw Animal Clinic. She also has a page on Facebook and can be contacted at the MJAC at (306) 692-3622. All rehabbers can be contacted via the Wildlife Hotline at (306) 242-7177. You can also check out Salthaven West in Regina and the Bandit Ranch Rehab in Saskatoon. Additionally, Melanie Elliott of Sakatoon rehabs bats.

Orphaned Black Bear cubs being rehabilitated at Black Bear Rescue Manitoba (photo via Black Bear Rescue Manitoba). Bears require a specific formula which is quite expensive

Orphaned Black Bear cubs being rehabilitated at Black Bear Rescue Manitoba (photo via Black Bear Rescue Manitoba). Bears require a specific formula which is quite expensive

All of these rehabbers do wonderful work, and need to be supported by the public. From tiny birds and weasels to fox kits, skunk kits, coyote pups, fawns, bear cubs and moose calves - every single animal deserves a chance! We need to preserve the wildlife we have left - and rehabbers help to do that. They also educate the public about the work they do through various programs. Sometimes you can then see their educational animals up close. The bear cubs need your support, but additionally, so many other species do as well. Let's support our wildlife rehabbers, Saskatchewan!

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Epp is an Environmental Educator and writer and is also the Past President, a Director and the Field Trip Coordinator of the Moose Jaw Nature Society. She can be reached at kepp@shaw.ca.

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