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Orphaned bear cub doing well at North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre

'Kona' brought to wildlife recovery centre weighing just 2.5 kilograms
'Kona' with his stuffed bear pal at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington.

An orphaned bear cub is gaining weight and becoming more active at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington.

The cub, recently given the name 'Kona', was brought to the centre very underweight approximately two weeks ago, according to Derek Downes, NIWRC animal supervisor.

“When it came in, it was only two-and-a-half kilograms, just about six pounds, and it should have been double that,” Downes said. “It was critical there for a little bit, but bears are so resilient and it’s a real testament to the species and their ability to bounce back”

Kona's condition has noticeably improved even in the past few days, he added. 

Downes wants to minimize handling the cub, so he's not sure how much Kona ways now, but based on its appearance, appetite and defecation, he's confident there will be a positive outcome. 

“He’s really quite feisty, which is really good,” Downes said.

As the first bear cub to arrive at the centre this year, Kona is a bit lonely, but he does have a stuffed bear (similar to his size) to keep him company.

One positive sign recently is Kona has begun to toss around his stuffed friend and "wrestle" with him.

“Bear cubs really find comfort from their siblings and their mom,” said Downes, and added it's likely he'll be joined in the coming months by other orphaned bear cubs.

“But in the meantime that little stuffy will just by virtue of him being so undersized and underweight, they really are truly comparable in size, which is really, like I said, sort of heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.”

The number of cubs who arrive at NIWRC varies from year to year. Just recently the centre released nine bear cubs back into the wild, who arrived about a year and a half ago.

Normally cubs, born in January or February, will stay with their mothers for between a year-and-a-half and two years, according to Downes.

“They’ll come out of the dens with their mom," he said. "They’ll spend that first spring, summer and then autumn with them, then they’ll den with their mothers again and then next year when they come up then they’ll go on their own."

The decision to bring Kona to NIWRC was based on several factors, which included his alarmingly skinny condition. 

“It was basically on its way out, really," Downes said. "When it came in it was about half the size that it should be, so it was very malnourished and that can be a good indication that it is truly orphaned."

NIWRC works in conjunction with the Conservation Officer Service (COS) as well as government biologists — specifically those in charge of the bear programs on Vancouver Island.

The public should not approach wildlife, especially a bear cub, since its mother could be nearby, Downes said.

“Typically the moms are very very protective," he said. "Especially when they are just coming out of the dens, and so when they’re at that sort of 10 pound plus or minus range, they’re certainly never too far from mom."

The best thing to do is to contact COS, who can assess whether the animal should be taken to NIWRC, Downes said.



Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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