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Expert advice

Having covered the ban on rehabilitating large wildlife in Alberta, the new policy introduced by the government in 2018 to allow for the rehabilitation of black bears, and the release of two orphaned bear cubs from the Cochrane Ecological Institute (CEI), our newsroom was saddened to hear that one of those cubs, Charlie, had been shot.

Charlie was the first bear to be rehabilitated in Alberta since the ban – introduced in 2010 – was lifted, and marked a major step for wild animal rehabilitation in the province. CEI staff worked hard to ensure the bears would not wind up habituated to humans – and according to the institute, none of the rehabilitated bears it released between 1985 and 2010 had to be killed.

That’s why it was so disheartening to hear that the protocol followed in the release of these two animals wasn’t what was recommended by the experts who had cared for them. Although CEI was successful in delaying the bears’ initial release from October 2018 to June 2019, the organization was unable to convince the government to wait until the bears begin hibernation to deliver them back into the wild. The animals were also exposed to more human contact than they’d experienced with CEI during a brief stay at a Cochrane Fish and Wildlife facility prior to their release, increasing the risk of habituation CEI had worked hard to avoid.

While there’s nothing to be done for Charlie, we hope a successful release for Maskwa means the province will continue to allow CEI and other rehabilitation facilities to proceed with their valuable work.


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