Black Bears Returned to the Wild

Two black bears rehabilitated at the Cochrane Ecological Institute have been released into remote forested areas in western Alberta.

On June 20, the government safely released the two bears the Cochrane Ecological Institute’s wildlife rehabilitation facility received in summer 2018. A team of veterinarians, provincial wildlife biologists and Fish and Wildlife officers worked together with the institute to coordinate the bears’ release.

Prior to their release, both bears were examined by the veterinarians from the University of Calgary, and it was determined that they were healthy and ready to re-enter the wild. The bears are about 16 months old – and by six months, black bears are self-sufficient to reintegrate into their original habitat. The bears have gained enough weight at the rehabilitation facility to be safely released.

“The Government of Alberta is committed to a wildlife rehabilitation process that considers the well-being of individual animals, ecological balance and the safety of Albertans. Alberta’s wildlife rehabilitation protocols are guided by compassion and the best available scientific research; which clearly indicates that the sooner young bears are released from captivity after becoming self-sufficient, the better off they will be in the long term. This is a decision that has been made with the best interests of both young bears in mind.”Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks

The bears have been fitted with radio collars and Alberta Environment and Parks will monitor their reintegration into the wild.

The ministry will continue monitoring the rehabilitated bears to ensure their return to the wild is successful.

This means the bears are:

  • able to forage on their own
  • appropriately social with other bears
  • less likely to become a part of human-bear conflict

If you encounter a bear cub in the wild

  • Do not approach. Mother bears (sows) will often leave their young unattended for up to 48 hours while they search for food. A sow may return and become aggressive in the defence of her cub.
  • Call Fish and Wildlife. If you have reason to believe that a bear cub you encounter is orphaned, it is best to contact Fish and Wildlife at 310-0000. Officers will be dispatched, and they will monitor the situation before taking action. A complete list of local office contacts is available online.
(Cochrane Ecological Institute)

Quick facts

  • The first bear is male and arrived at the rehabilitation facility in May 2018 weighing about 4.5 kilograms. It now weighs about 55 kilograms.
  • The second bear is female and arrived at the rehabilitation facility in July 2018, weighing about 6.8 kilograms. It now weighs about 43 kilograms.
  • Alberta has two permitted black bear rehabilitation facilities. These were the first two bears rehabilitated in Alberta. No other bears are currently in rehabilitation facilities.
  • More than 40,000 black bears live in Alberta. In a given year, about 10,000 black bear cubs are born.
  • Not all animals found in the wild are orphaned. There are times when mothers safely leave their young while they forage or find new habitats. 
  • In Alberta, it is illegal for hunters to kill a bear under the age of one or to kill a sow in the company of cubs.
  • British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba allow the rehabilitation of black bear cubs younger than one year of age.

Related information