Bear cub injured by train put down 

Tough decision to euthanize splits bear lovers

The government’s decision to put down the blue-eyed bear cub, dubbed J.J. Bear for two short days, has sparked debate over the treatment of injured black bears.

"The human thing to do is to send him to rehab. The bear thing to do is to put him down," said local black bear researcher Michael Allen, who recommended to vets that the cub be euthanized after his right front paw was torn apart by a passing train in Pemberton.

Still, looking at the cute little face, just six months new to the world, it was an emotional decision for everyone involved, he said.

The bear’s paw was run over by a train on Wednesday, June 12. A local man scared the mother away and peeled the cub’s paw of the track. The tiny cub was then taken to a campground, the RCMP called and its paw bandaged in expectation that it could be released into the wild.

But when the bandages were removed the next day the damage was obviously more severe than first believed. Bone, nerves and muscle were exposed.

By the time local vets saw the cub the day after the accident his tongue and gums were pale, a sign he had lost a lot of blood.

The damage was so severe that J.J. Bear would most likely have lost his leg and had to go through extensive rehabilitation over a period of two to three years.

There was a rehab centre in Smithers, the Northern Lights Wildlife Centre, which was willing to accept the cub and care for him for a year but this course of action goes against government policy.

After looking at that policy, John Van Hove, head of Fish and Wildlife Science and Allocation Section at the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, made the decision to put the bear cub down.

"It’s our view that no bears can be rehabilitated back to the point where they can be successfully introduced back into the wild if they’ve had extensive human contact," he said.

This particular bear also had extensive injuries which would greatly reduce the odds of his survival, he added.

But for the handful of people, who nursed the cub, it was a devastating decision.

"It was unbelievably heart-wrenching," said Sylvia Dolson, executive director of the J.J. Whistler Bear Society, still trying to fight back the tears days later as she remembered the little bear cub, who was no bigger than her tubby cat.

"It’s just tearing me apart."

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