Orphaned cubs have a chance

Bear cubs being cared for at North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Parksville after their mother was killed on Nanaimo Parkway

Robin Campbell feeds orphaned bear cubs at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington.

Robin Campbell feeds orphaned bear cubs at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington.

The prognosis looks good for a pair of infant black bear cubs that were orphaned when their mother was struck by a car on the Nanaimo Parkway Thursday night.

North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre founder Robin Campbell said the mother was killed immediately from the impact, leaving her two young cubs up in a tree.

“The police showed up and found somebody already there, cutting the feet off the mum,” Campbell said. “The cops put the run on them and they took off.”

The cubs posed a challenge to rescuers, as they were too young to be safely sedated, so the fire department was called and the pair were plucked to safety with the aid of their cherry-picker bucket.

The dead mother bear was loaded into a pickup truck and taken to the North Island Wildlife Recovery facility in Errington, where she was rubbed down with blankets to put her scent on them.

“Even when she was dead they were trying to suck off her,” Campbell said. “We put them in the intensive care area. They cried for about 20 minutes and then started to settle down. Then they seemed to be doing well.”

Campbell and the staff started the cubs on a special bear milk replacement formula and then moved them on to an omnivore diet of blended pablum, apple sauce and cottage cheese.

“Their condition looks good, their coats look good and it’s just a matter of making sure nothing happens to them in our care,” Campbell said. “They are eating on their own, so they don’t have to be bottle fed, which is a big plus.”

Because the cubs are without their mother, Campbell said they are sure to be stressed and therefore more prone to disease. Because of this, anyone dealing with them has to take off their footwear and put on special sanitized boots, so they don’t track in any potential pathogens.

“We’ll keep them in here until they are 18 pounds or so and then we will transfer them into the new bear facility we built last year,” Campbell said. “We’ll keep them to next June or July and then, depending on what’s going on in the environment, we’ll release them.”

He said he’s confident the bears will survive their ordeal.