Two of three black bear cubs that arrived at the Greater Vancouver Zoo from Alaska in early September are seen here getting used to their new surroundings. submitted photo

Greater Vancouver Zoo takes in black bear siblings

Orphaned cubs underscore need to keep bears away from non-natural food sources

The black bear population at the Greater Vancouver Zoo has grown to five.

The Aldergrove zoo has taken in three orphaned cubs from Alaska, adding to the two adult males at the zoo.

There is also an adult female grizzly bear named Shadow in its own separate enclosure at the zoo.

The siblings, who came to the zoo Sept. 4, were estimated to be seven months old at the time of their arrival.

Basil is the young male who is the leader of the pack and is closely followed by his two sisters: Rosemary and Thyme.

Their mother is presumed to have been killed because of human-wildlife conflict.

Hundreds of bears are destroyed yearly in B.C. and elsewhere, most often due to bears having access to non-natural food sources.

“Because of the volume of animals that do become orphaned there isn’t very much opportunity to place them,” said Menita Prasad, the zoo’s animal care manager.

“So unfortunately if they don’t get placed very quickly, the alternative most often is (to euthanize).”

The zoo has the space to take in the cubs, said Prasad, who added that they will be cared for at the zoo for the rest of their lives.

“These guys can live up to 20 years so they’re going to be with us for quite some time,” Prasad said.

Prasad said a lot of work was involved in transporting the three cubs to Aldergrove.

“A lot of paperwork and a lot of travel time for the animals (by plane),” Prasad said.

The cubs are fed a diet of fruits and vegetables as well as fish, other types of seafood, and dog food.

“Being cubs, they definitely are in their growing stage so are consuming quite a bit,” Prasad said.

Coming from the wild to an enclosed space was a difficult transition for the cubs.

“They definitely don’t see humans as a friend at this point,” Prasad said.

“When we initially had them on site, we had them in a quarantine area for a 30-day period.”

The sibling were released into their enclosure Oct. 10.

“They definitely explore it with a lot of hesitation,” Prasad said.

“They’re unfamiliar with the surroundings, so they want to make sure, No. 1, that they’re safe and they’re protected.”

Subsequently, the first thing the cubs did was climb the tallest tree in their enclosure.

Also staying at the zoo are resident adult male black bears Kohl, born at the zoo 12 years ago and 19-year-old Jerome, described by Prasad as a “retired movie bear.”

Be bear aware

People are urged to keep neighbourhoods and wildlife safe by taking preventative measures to avoid conflict with wildlife by reducing food sources.

• Store garbage in secure containers, clean bins regularly and move to the curb on the morning of collection date.

• Collect fruit and vegetables from gardens, often ensuring any items that have fallen to the ground are cleaned up on a consistent basis.

• Do not feed pets outside or clean up any uneaten food items immediately.

• Clean BBQ’s after use, empty grease traps and cover or store indoors.

By reducing the risks to human safety and property, people can reduce the number of bears that are destroyed each year.

For more information visit www.gvzoo.com

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