Candy back in the wild 

Bear cub that hitchhiked to Squamish released after winter at Critter Care

By Claire Piech

Whistler’s adopted bear cub Candy was released into the wild last week after spending the past six months recuperating in a Frasier Valley animal rehabilitation centre.

On Wednesday, June 27 th , Conservation Officer Dave Jevons and Nicola Brabyn from the Bear Aversion Research Team drove the cub from Langley to Whistler and released her in the Upper Soo Valley.

“We opened the door…, she jumped out, and then myself and my dog — who has been trained to chase bears — chased Candy for a bit. This was to give her a negative association with humans so she is not encouraged to return to urban areas,” said Jevons.

Candy’s release location was chosen because it is the furthest point from urban spaces within her home range, as well as being an area with abundant food sources.

Unfortunately, it is also in a hunting zone.

“There are good and bad aspects about being in a hunting zone,” said Sylvia Dolson, executive director of the Whistler-based Get Bear Smart Society (GBS).

“The good aspect is that there are fewer bears, so there is less chance for her to come into conflict with them, and there is more room,” she said.

Candy was found in late December wandering the streets of Squamish, after getting into a garbage bin in Whistler and taking an unexpected ride down Highway 99 in a disposal truck.

She had been abandoned by her mother and was malnourished and significantly underweight. In fact, the then-one-year-old bear weighed approximately 24 pounds, whereas a typical female her age weighs in at 30 to 50 pounds.

Because of her poor health and young age, Conservation Officers brought Candy to an animal care facility in Langley, Critter Care Wildlife Society, to stay for the winter months.

Candy’s six-month stay at the society was funded by Whistlerites. Donations were made to GBS and directly to Critter Care. Whistler resident Ed Zinkevich also organized a drive to collect money for the bear cub, and Home Hardware had an ongoing campaign to raise funds.

“I want to thank people from Whistler for all their support. I really appreciate it very much,” said Gail Martin, founder and executive director of Critter Care.

Martin was not able to say how much Candy’s total care ended up costing. However, Dolson predicted in January that the cub’s care at the society would cost approximately $3,000.

Candy now weights a healthy 100 pounds.

“It was time for her to go. We waited until the bear-hunting season was over to ensure her safety, and she’ll do well. I wish her all the best,” said Martin.

“Candy is a feisty little girl, and she has definitely got what it takes to make it on her own,” added Dolson.

Whether Candy will return to urban spaces searching out unnatural food sources in the future is unknown. However, at young age she already has a history of eating garbage.

“We have known for a long time that translocation is not a silver bullet — it does not guarantee the bear will stay out of garbage. Obviously we hope she stays out of trouble,” said Jevons.

“I am sure she will be fine,” he added.

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