This is a sad story with a happy ending.
It all started in early July when Whistler resident Layne Harvey discovered conservation officers had been forced to destroy a mother bear that had broken into approximately 10 area homes. The bear's two six-month-old cubs were nearby at the time.
It turned out one of the last houses the bear broke into belonged to Harvey's ex-wife, who is the mother of their nine-year-old son, Lochlan. Though Lochlan didn't witness the incident with the mother bear, he nevertheless was impacted by it.
"He was a bit traumatized," Harvey said. "I think it was hard for him to know that the mama had to be put down and the cubs were just kind of left."
Harvey and his wife Laura decided to follow up to see what had happened to the cubs after the incident. They discovered that on July 9 the 35-pound cubs had been transferred to the non-profit Critter Care Wildlife Society in Langley.
Staff at the rehab facility sent the family some photos of the cubs and said the bears were fairly traumatized, but doing well.
When they learned it costs between $4,000 and $5,000 to rehabilitate a single bear over a period of a year, the Harveys decided to donate $250 per cub to the facility to both help with the cubs' care and make a teachable moment out of the sad situation for Lochlan and his younger sisters.
"To give some comfort to know that, yeah, sometimes bad things happen, but there can also be positives that come out of it," Harvey said.
Because of Lochlan's connection to the cubs, Critter Care allowed the family to name the bears. Lochlan named the female bear Solal — which is a combination of his and his sisters' names: Sophia, Lochlan and Alycia. Sophia Harvey named the male bear Balsam, after Balsam Way, where the cubs were rescued.
According to Harvey, seeing the cubs in the photo and getting to name them has gone a long way to helping Lochlan feel better about the situation.
"It is a sad story that does have a silver lining, which is, there are people out there doing this kind of work. There is someone caring for them and desperately trying to release them back into the wild," Harvey said.
Harvey said that after the rash of negative bear-human interactions in the Village, that saw four bears destroyed within the span of a week because of human habituation, he hopes residents in Whistler become more bear aware.
Angela Fontana, senior animal care supervisor of Critter Care Wildlife Society, said the cubs are currently in an enclosure with five other rescued bears, including one other from Whistler. The cubs will spend until next spring at the facility and then be released back in the Whistler region, but far from people. She said the cubs are healthy and have a good chance at life, once released, if they don't become spoiled by human contact as their mother did.
While they are at the facility, caregivers have as little contact with the bears as possible and do everything they can to recreate a wild environment. Fontana said staff go into the enclosure only once a day to drop food and clean. The bears' food is even hidden so they have to scavenge for it and once winter comes food will be reduced to allow the bears to hibernate.
"We let them be bears," she said.
For more info on Critter Care go to www.crittercarewildlife.org.