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Bear cubs given fighting chance in Smithers



Wildlife Society is one of the few places in B.C. to take in black bear cubs

In the past decade, 69 little bear cubs have temporary called the Northern Lights Wildlife Society in Smithers home.

They have come from around the province seeking momentary refuge there until they are able to fend for themselves in the wild once again.

Some have lost their mothers in the spring hunt. A passing train or car has orphaned others.

And then there are a few whose dens were destroyed by work crews or whose mothers where scared away by humans.

The reasons why they come to Smithers are wide and varied. But the Northern Lights Wildlife Society is one of the few places in B.C. for black bear cubs to go, if they are lucky enough to get that far.

Three cubs have made it their home this year, joining a wildlife menagerie which includes, a baby moose, a baby deer, foxes, eagles, hawks, owls, the odd squirrel or two and whatever else manages to make his or her way there.

"We take all kinds of animals," said Angelika Langen, a veritable animal lover and trained animal keeper, who works with her husband, Peter.

This year Dirty Harry is safe in Smithers after he was found hurt and hungry, abandoned in a cherry orchard in Penticton.

Billy came from Houston after a car hit his mum and George arrived from Fort St. James after a hunter killed his mum.

For a brief moment last month, the Smithers centre was an injured Pemberton bear cub’s destination and his only hope for survival.

A BC Rail train ran over the cub’s front paw on June 12, effectively maiming him for life.

When vets removed his bandages, they uncovered a jarring sight of exposed nerves and muscles. It looked like he would lose his leg.

Government policy does not allow three-legged bears to be rehabilitated so instead of going to Smithers, the cub, who was dubbed J.J. Bear for his brief time with humans, was put down.

Langen said the cub deserved a fighting chance at the very least.

"You’d be amazed in wild animals, what kind of wounds heal. You cannot compare that with a domesticated animal. And most veterinarians just have experience with domesticated animals.

"Wildlife is extremely resilient. They have a lot more strength in them than the domesticated animals and nature can do amazing things to subsidize for shortcomings."

She said the decision to end J.J. Bear’s life should have been made after his wound was fairly assessed over a period of time.

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