From looking for missing black bear cubs with drones to holding a small cub in his last moments of life, the last few weeks have been an emotional roller-coaster for Judy and Roger Stearns at their black bear rescue near Stonewall, Man.
The couple, who run Black Bear Rescue Manitoba, have already taken in seven cubs this season — including five in the month of May alone — while also caring for two older cubs that came in before Christmas.
The latest three cubs came into the couple’s care on Monday, after their mother was shot.
Two of the cubs were found huddling next to their mother’s body in the Grandview area, in western Manitoba, she said.
The cubs, who seemed to still be in shock when they were found, can be seen below:
The third cub had climbed up a tree near the mother’s body, so two Manitoba Conservation officers set up a live trap and monitored it until the cub eventually came down and was caught, Judy said.
Though it might sound morbid, she says leaving the mother’s body there helped keep the cub in the area.
The cubs are doing well now, she said, but are still a bit skittish.
“It’s great all three are together, so that’s really great for their spirits,” she said.
“And we anticipate over the course of the next few days when they settle in, they’ll loosen up and relax and they’ll start playing again.”
The rescue is also taking care of two other cubs who were found after their mother was hit by a car on May 7 near Gypsumville, in Manitoba’s Interlake.
One of the cubs was actually rescued by an RCMP officer who noticed the cub lying on the road near the accident, Judy said.
The officer went so far as to block off the road and lie beside the cub to keep her warm until Conservation officers arrived and took her into their care, she said.
Conservation officers believe the two Gypsumville cubs have another sibling.
Earlier this month, Roger Stearns and a drone operator searched the area where the cub was last seen. They think they spotted it, but no one has been able to catch it yet.
Sadly, not all of the cubs the Stearnses have taken in had happy endings.
The couple took in a small cub who was found near Anola last week in very rough shape. The cub had hundreds of woodticks on her small, five-pound frame, and was very weak and anemic, Judy said.
“We had excellent veterinary care and we just couldn’t save her,” she said.
“The next day she just started to fade and there was nothing we could do at that point. And so we just kept her comfortable and she passed away late Saturday night. So that was very sad.”
Unfortunately, heartbreaking moments like this are part of the job of running Manitoba’s only black bear rescue, but Judy says she and Roger don’t let it get them down.
“When you sign up for something like this, you know that there are going to be sad and difficult things that you have to go through,” she said.
“So if we shied away from those things and decided, you know, not to do this, then we wouldn’t get to do the vast majority of things which are good.”
In addition to the five cubs that came to the rescue this month, the couple are also taking care of two black bear cubs who were rescued at the end of April from around Lac du Bonnet, about 90 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
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