Two bear cubs from the South Cariboo are recovering at the Northern Lights Wildlife Society after being found thin and starving near 100 Mile House this winter.
Conservation Officer Murray Booth said the bears - found near Buffalo Creek and Moose Valley - were transported to the Smithers facility in the past two months. They are among 76 bears - nearly twice as many as the 46 a year earlier - that have found their way to the Smithers-based shelter in the past year.
Booth said the bears are not coming out of hibernation early but are more likely victims of industrial activity that has affected their habitat.
“One I had to deal with was not healthy,” Booth said. “It was extremely skinny, straggly and not afraid of people. Given the area, I’m thinking industrial activity has disturbed a den. It’s not normal behaviour.
“It may be part and parcel to all the fires and the massive alterations they have caused.”
Angelika Langen, one of the founders of the wildlife society, said since November they have taken in six bear cubs from the Cariboo area. In addition to the most recent ones, there were two from 150 Mile and another two from Forest Grove. Only one of them didn’t make it.
She maintains there is more bear activity these days because it’s so mild, while others could be waking up early if their dens are flooded. The other reason, she said, is a better relationship with the local Conservation Officers, who are notifying the centre when they find these bears.
“Because we’re more involved, we can do more,” she said. “This year made a real difference. We’re in regions of B.C. now that we weren’t before.”
Langen said they have 42 bears in hibernation at the centre now. “If they end up here, we just feed them,” she said. “We have 42 bears sleeping. We need to buy lots more food, fruits and vegetables.”
The volunteer-run organization has been rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife in the province for 31 years and runs solely on donations from the public. Depending on the circumstances of the relocation, each cub can cost the group $2,500 to $3,000 by the time it is released back into the wild.