When four Alex Hope Elementary Grade 4 students read about the many orphaned black bear cubs arriving at Langley’s Critter Care rehabilitation centre this summer, they knew they wanted to help.
The students — Jordis Klyne, Danica Bateman, Ryan Burns and Raymond Shi — who take part in the Destination Imagination program, worked together to make Critter Care their project of the year.
According to Nadean Vonk, an intermediate resource teacher at Alex Hope, the students contacted Critter Care themselves to find out what they could do.
Critter Care responded with an invitation to tour the south Langley rehabilitation centre and learn about what they do.
“We got to go to Critter Care and see lots of the animals, especially the raccoons, there were a lot of them,” said Ryan.
“We could smell the skunks,” said Jordis, holding her nose.
But the kids didn’t get to see any of the 32 bear cubs that are now residing at the centre.
The public is never allowed to see the bears. Having as little human interaction as possible helps with the animals’ successful release into the wild.
The kids did get to watch all the volunteers in action and see them heading out to rescue an animal.
Returning from Critter Care with a list of needed items, the students moved into action.
They call their group H.A.L.O. — Helping Animals Live On. They decided to do a school-wide paper/household goods drive, collecting items to help all the animals, including receiving blankets, baby rattles for the raccoons, toiletries, dog food, Canadian Tire money, cleaning products and more.
They put out boxes with signs and were allowed to make announcements over the school’s PA system, and speak to their classes about what they wanted to do.
“We had so many kids bring stuff we had to get more boxes,” said Danica. “We also decided to make the drive for all of January so everyone had a chance to bring something.”
The students admitted to raiding their own bathrooms of toilet paper.
Now they have more than five large boxes overflowing with items that they plan to deliver to Critter Care.
The items will be put to good use.
“We have twice as many bears than we normally do,” said Maureen Binnie, director at Critter Care.
“Most of the bears have gone into hibernation, except for our littlest ones — they are up and about.”
Come spring, when the bears wake up, it’s going to be busy at Critter Care, said Binnie.
“They will have to be fed, and the biggest ones will be the first to be re-released back to the wild,” she said.
Binnie said they had to put six small cubs, including Tiny Tim, who came to Critter Care as the smallest cub (weighing just 12 pounds) in the bobcat Hoover’s former enclosure.
Hoover died a few years ago.
But bears like to climb the chainlink and play around, pushing against the fencing.
“We are needing to repair a lot of our fencing,” she said.
It’s drives like the one the Alex Hope students did that really make them smile, said Binnie.
“It’s children like that who are going to keep these animals taken care of for generations to come,” she said. “We have children choosing to donate to us instead of getting birthday presents. It’s just wonderful.”
With the drought shortening the berry season last summer, more bears came down the mountains and into communities, resulting in starving cubs and an influx coming to Critter Care.
“We really want to thank everyone who stepped up to help us and to donate,” said Binnie.
The Alex Hope students will present their HALO project at the Destination Imagination Fraser Valley competition on Feb. 27. If they win, they will present their project for judging at provincials.