A British Columbia wildlife refuge is upset and shocked after a bear cub rescued near his mother's dead body in the spring died unexpectedly in his enclosure.
According to a statement from the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre, the bear, who was named Malcolm, was asphyxiated after getting his head stuck in a small rope handle attached to a plastic buoy.
“In the morning of his death, he was routinely observed on the cameras playing contentedly on the large tree stumps that had been provided in his cage," the release said. "In the mid-afternoon, animal care staff were at the pre-release building and opened the food hatch to check on Malcolm’s activities.”
“At that time the cub was seen to be immobile and on the ground beside one of the tree stumps. Staff immediately entered the enclosure recognizing that there was a serious problem… There were no signs of a struggle and we suspect he got his head through the loop and then very quickly asphyxiated.”
The statement added that there had been a buoy suspended by a chain from a tree stump in Malcolm's enclosure since he first got there. The buoys had been a common source of enrichment for bears and there had never been any hints of mishaps or injuries.
The centre's founder and operations manager Robin Campbell explained that they have now removed the ropes attached to the buoys from all enclosures. He said in 20 years there had never been an incident like this. The cub was about eight to 12 weeks old and extremely malnourished when it was discovered in May lying on its mother’s carcass in Tofino.
The centre's statement went on to say that despite some initial health problems associated with hypoglycemia and emaciation, the bear had shown good physical and behavioural progress while in care. Malcolm was sedated and examined on October 18th and found to be healthy, so he was moved to a pre-release enclosure.
Jennifer Stevens and her husband John Forde were the two who originally found the bear and captured it by scooping it into a dog kennel. The two were devastated to hear the news but didn't blame the centre as they've done wonders with other animals.
With files from the Canadian Press.