Green Light for Orphan Black Bear Cub Care

The Government of Alberta has introduced a new policy that will allow wildlife rehabilitation facilities in Alberta to accept orphaned black bear cubs.

The new policy allows Alberta Fish and Wildlife staff to work with rehabilitation facilities to ensure orphan black bear cubs are safely returned to the wild whenever possible. Once approved, a facility will be able to accept black bears less than one year of age.

“Alberta’s orphaned black bear policy is based on the best available scientific research, modern rehabilitation practices, compassion for these animals and the safety of people. We want black bear cubs to grow up and thrive in the wilds of Alberta.”

~Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks

The policy includes a draft protocol that sets the requirements surrounding bear feeding, the suitability of the physical space in which the bears are kept, appropriate veterinary care and what kinds of interactions the bears have with humans.

The draft protocol is the result of more than a year of consultation, research and engagement. Wildlife management biologists will continue to work with rehabilitation facilities to ensure bears can be returned to the wild without causing issues in populated areas.

This means the bears:

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

After being assessed, the bears will be released on or before Oct. 15 of the year they arrived at the facility and will not be overwintered at a facility unless special approval is given.

Released bears will be fitted with monitoring devices such as ear tags and will be tracked by scientists to ensure successful reintegration into the wild.

If you encounter a bear cub in the wild

  • DO NOT approach. Mothers will often leave their young for periods of time to search for food. A mother 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, and to allow them to monitor the situation before taking action. A complete list of local office contacts is available online.

Quick facts

  • There are more than 40,000 black bears in Alberta. In a given year, there are approximately 10,000 black bear cubs born.
  • In Alberta, it is illegal for hunters to kill a bear cub or to kill a female bear that has cubs with it.
  • 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 to survive.
  • British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba allow the rehabilitation of black bear cubs younger than one year of age.
  • The review of Alberta’s bear rehabilitation protocol began after three black bear cubs were found in a washroom in Banff National Park on April 1, 2017.
  • There are 10 permitted wildlife rehabilitation facilities in Alberta. These facilities provide a service that many Albertans use and value.