Bear obliv­i­ous to im­pro­vised den, ac­tivist says

Calgary Herald - - CITY - BILL KAUF­MANN BKauf­mann@post­

It’s a sur­vival of­fer­ing that doesn’t ap­pear to be a bear ne­ces­sity — for now.

Ac­tivists who about three weeks ago sup­plied an ar­ti­fi­cial den to a well-known in­jured black bear west of Cal­gary say the bruin has yet to de­tect the wooden hi­ber­nac­u­lum, or hasn’t shown much in­ter­est.

But the young bruin dubbed Rus­sell has seemed tan­ta­liz­ingly close to notic­ing what could be his win­ter home in a field along High­way 22 at Spring­bank Road, said Lisa Dahl­seide.

“He hasn’t found it but Wed­nes­day was promis­ing — he was at the top of the hill and just had to turn around and he’d have found it,” said Dahl­seide, who has a bach­e­lor’s de­gree of con­ser­va­tion bi­ol­ogy.

Her team, Rus­sell’s Pri­vate Ad­vo­cacy Group, said they’ve tried to move the ply­wood box — over­seen by a sur­veil­lance cam­era and in­su­lated with hay bales — to an ad­ja­cent prop­erty that might be more amenable to the bear but with no suc­cess.

Nor­mally by this time of year, black bears have denned but re­cent, un­usu­ally warm weather could well de­lay that ac­tion, said Dahl­seide.

“This weather is a bless­ing for Rus­sell as he re­quires more calo­rie in­take in pre­par­ing for tor­por,” she said, us­ing a term she says more ac­cu­rately de­scribes hi­ber­na­tion.

“We hope he can gain the nec­es­sary weight to help him sur­vive win­ter.”

Dahl­seide has been among a num­ber of peo­ple lob­by­ing the prov­ince to al­low a lo­cal wildlife res­cue so­ci­ety spe­cial per­mis­sion to take in and re­ha­bil­i­tate the bear, which ap­pears to have an in­jured left hind leg, over the win­ter.

Rus­sell has been a fix­ture at the same lo­ca­tion since late Septem­ber, with ac­tivists sus­pect­ing he was or­phaned around that time.

But provin­cial of­fi­cials say cur­rent law for­bids that, out of fear the prac­tise ha­bit­u­ates wildlife, opt­ing in­stead to let na­ture take its course.

On­go­ing pub­lic feed­ing of the bear at the side of High­way 22 might also be pre­vent­ing him from head­ing to the hi­ber­nac­u­lum, said Dahl­seide.

But the group won’t use food to lure him to the box.

“Bait­ing is (only) al­lowed if you pos­sess a hunt­ing tag dur­ing hunt­ing sea­son and in­tend to kill the bear, so we can’t bait him to the den,” said Dahl­seide.

Re­cent pho­tos of Rus­sell taken by Red­wood Mead­ows Fire De­part­ment Chief Rob Evans have raised con­cerns about his health, with poorly-groomed hair one con­cern.

A big­ger one is what ap­pears to be its leg in­jury, which causes Rus­sell to limp, said Dahl­seide.

“I’m still con­cerned there could be an in­fec­tion — there could be a bub­ble of pus and his eyes are runny,” she said.

While she dis­agrees with provin­cial pol­icy on the mat­ter, Dahl­seide said she’d like to work co-op­er­a­tively with Al­berta En­vi­ron­ment and Parks of­fi­cials who are mon­i­tor­ing the bear.

“I know they’re try­ing to do their best, they do care,” she said.

Her group is hold­ing an open house to dis­cuss Rus­sell’s case Dec. 16 start­ing at 11 a.m. at The Heart in Bragg Creek.


An in­jured bear wan­ders in a farmer’s field near Spring­bank this week. A group has been lob­by­ing to help the bear.


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