UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The rehabilitation of black bears (Ursus americanus) in North America : a survey of current practices Cant, Meghann


Throughout the year, black bear (Ursus americanus) cubs are orphaned, abandoned, or permanently separated from their mothers due to natural or human causes. Although cubs have been the focus of limited rehabilitation efforts in North America for more than 30 years, information on bear rehabilitation remains sparse. Furthermore, a lack of agreement exists regarding the suitability of bears as rehabilitation candidates. There is concern that exposure to humans during the rehabilitation process may increase the likelihood of bears becoming nuisances upon release. Yet previous research suggests that their genetic predisposition to emigrate and lead relatively solitary lives may limit the ef-fects of any habituation to humans that takes place during care. Clearly, given the lack of research as well as the controversy, there is a need to determine whether rehabilitation is a viable option for black bears in North America. Accordingly, a survey was sent out to 39 wildlife rehabilitation centres (9 in Canada and 30 in the United States) to obtain detailed information on how cubs are raised and released. Findings from the multi-institution, multi-year study suggest that black bears are suitable rehabilitation candidates, as they can be raised and released using a variety of methods, while achieving high survival rates and weights compared to bears at a similar age in the wild. The results of this study provide vital information for wildlife rehabilitators and government, and may be useful for the development of future policies and standards for the rehabilitation of black bear cubs in North America. Furthermore, with a better understanding of the rehabilitation process, government wildlife agencies may be more open to supporting black bear rehabilitation in the future.

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