Nanaimo Fire Rescue expanded its mandate to carry out a special rescue operation early Thursday.
Martin Drakeley, Nanaimo Fire Rescue assistant chief of operations, said firefighters were called out at about 5:30 a.m. by Mounties after a sow bear was hit by a cube van on the Nanaimo Parkway near the East Wellington Road overpass.
Although the accident happened shortly after midnight, it wasn’t until the light of day that police were made aware of the cubs.
“When [the RCMP officer] arrived, the cubs were suckling on the dead mom,” Drakeley said. “When he tried to approach the cubs, of course, they took off and went up a tree.”
The Mountie called in a conservation officer who needed a ladder to pluck the two cubs from the tree.
The first fire crew on scene realized there would be a safety issue for passing motorists and the cubs if the cubs fell to the ground or ran out in traffic, so they shut down one lane of the parkway and called in an aerial ladder truck which was used to hoist the conservation officer up to the cubs so he could retrieve them safely.
“Knowing people would do their darnedest to not hit a baby bear, it just made sense to bring in the truck and get it done, but normally we don’t do that,” Drakeley said.
The bears were taken to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington, where staff hope a female bear currently in their care will adopt the cubs.
“I think they have a sow up there that lost one or two of its cubs, so they’re going to try and readapt them to the mother bear,” Drakeley said. “They said they had a perfect situation for them, so that’s good.”