He may be small, but that little gaffer can sure climb.
And that he did, bounding up a cedar tree in Maple Ridge some 50 feet or more – out of reach of his mom, conservation officers, and even the firefighters who endeavoured to come to his rescue late Monday morning.
It took the full reach of the Maple Ridge fire department’s aerial truck and a few poles – taped together for extra reach – to help pry the four- or five-month-old black bear cub from his safe haven up high in the tree, explained deputy fire chief Michael Van Dop.
“Actually, the baby cub got hooked up on some branches,” making the rescue of the partially sedated young bear even more difficult, explained the deputy fire chief. He and the team were called out to assist conservation services around the lunch hour.
“When it rains it pours when it relates to odd calls,” Van Dop said. He was referring to another incident this past weekend where Maple Ridge firefighters were deployed to extract a small dog from inside a couch. The recliner had to be cut open to free the lap dog unharmed.
As Van Dop said at that time, in his 16 years of firefighting he’s seen his share of animal rescues: “We’ve had cats in trees and ducks down a drain.”
Monday’s bear cub rescue is just one more for the scrapbook.
“It was kind of a cool experience,” Van Dop said.
The encounter started a few hours before firefighters were dispatched.
A mother and her two young cubs were reported in the 22900-block of 117th Avenue at about 8:30 a.m. that morning, when a home owner in the vicinity reported letting out their large breed dog in the backyard only to hear excessive barking before realized the canine had encountered the sow.
According to conservation Sgt. Todd Hunter, a “small scuffle” ensued, emotions ran high, and calls went out to 9-1-1.
The dog was not believed to be injured too bad, Hunter said, despite the confrontation with a protective mother, who he described as a fair sized three-to-five-year-old adult in obvious healthy condition.
The mother and cubs, who had been reportedly spotted several blocks away in the Cottonwood neighbourhood in recent past, showed no signs of being habitualized (meaning they’re not relying on humans for food, and not rummaging for garbage and birdfeeders).
But, Hunter predicted they must have been hungry and ventured beyond their traditional wooded territory in search of food.
“This year there’s going to be a lot of scavenging for available food. There’s not a lot out there for them,” Hunter elaborated.
In this case, the three bears became trapped inside a fenced backyard when confronted by the dog, and ultimately, all three ended up the tree.
Using a tranquilizer dart gun, conservation officers were eventually able to immobilize the mother without incident, and caught the first of the cubs with little difficulty, Hunter said.
But the other cub just kept climbing higher and higher, despite being hit with a dart.
“It wedged itself up there, pretty good,” Hunter said, noting how they had to eventually call on the firefighters for some extra help.
“He’s a cute little fella,” Van Dop said, looking over the cub once he was on the ground and the sedation had fully taken effect. “Just a little dude, may 10, 15 pounds at most.”
The cub was assessed by a vet, Hunter noted, and despite some bleeding caused by the dart, it was believed to be relatively unscathed by the encounter.
Hunter confirmed that all three bears were transported out of the residential area and released on the outskirts of Maple Ridge, with full expectations they would not be back. Too often, he said, conservation officers are having to euthanize black bears in the area that are habitualized and do become dependent on human sources (like garbage, birdfeeders, and pet food) for sustenance.
He is impressed with the impact joint awareness efforts by Wildsafe BC, the municipalities, and conservation services are having in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. But there’s much more to do, Hunter said.
This community still reports the second highest number of human-bear conflicts in the North Fraser Zone (between Port Moody and Mission), outnumbered only by the Tri-Cities. The entire region will see about 3,000 to 4,000 calls a year. But, Hunter added, some residents are definitely learning to arm themselves with knowledge and are quick to recognize they are living in “bear country.”
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