By Angelika Langen
Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter
When the call came in on Saturday morning, October 11, from Invermere, Smithers-based Northern Lights Wildlife Society’s rescue and rehabilitation volunteers knew that their Thanksgiving plans just got derailed. Little did they know that this rescue would involve so much more than saving two orphaned grizzly cubs.
On Friday, October10, Conservation Officer Greg Kruger from Invermere attended a call at Canal Flats near Cranbrook about two orphaned cubs. He indeed found a sow grizzly that died from a vehicle collision and with her two cubs from this year who were too young to survive on their own. He tranquilized the cubs and called Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter for pickup and a safe place for the cubs to mature further.
At NLWS Peter and I prepared for immediate travel and volunteers where called back from their much-deserved holiday break to care for the 17 black bear cubs that are already living at the shelter. We left Smithers at 9 pm on Saturday to tackle the long drive to Invermere. Taking shifts we drove through the night and morning found them in Kamloops for breakfast. Here we received a message from CO Kruger offering to start driving their way to ease on their travel time. Grateful for the break, we met him just outside Golden for the cub transfer. The two cubs, a boy and a girl, where sedated, ear marked for identification and dewormed, and then moved to our bear transport trailer. Deeply grateful, we said good bye to CO Kruger and his son Brendon and started the journey home. A short stop in Revelstoke yielded several bags of apples and carrots for the cubs and a fast food meal before continuing on.
About 30 kilometres outside Revelstoke we had to pull over as the truck was starting to overheat. Still not too concerned, I called BCAA for towing and that’s when things started to go astray from our usual rescues.
After taking down all the details the BCAA dispatcher asked me what was in the trailer and with a chuckle I explained the nature of the unusual load. I was shocked when the dispatcher said BCAA would not be able to transport two grizzly cubs for liability reasons. Pleading, I was promised a call back. Sitting on the roadside with two frightened cubs that freaked out every time a big transport truck raced by Peter and I started to despair as an hour and more passed without any action. Grateful that the truck had at least stopped in a stretch of road that has cell service (not that common in the mountains) we conferred with home what else to do.
Finally, not knowing what else could be done I posted some comments about what was happening on the Northern Lights Wildlife Shelter’s Facebook and this is when the local rescue went global. People from all over the world posted suggestions and offers of help.
I think BCAA received calls from as far away as California with pleas to assist us. Within 30 minutes of their post we where told that a truck would pick us up within the next hour including the two bears. But they were also told that in Revelstoke no mechanic would be available until Tuesday to fix their truck. So where does one go with two little grizzlies in tow? Back to FB I updated our status and our supporters tackled the next step. “I think a lot of mechanics received a very unusual call for help this Thanksgiving,” Peter said.
Wendy Chambers from Golden found a listing on line with a private contact number for Tom Patry of Grizzly Automotive in Revelstoke. Not only did Tom answer the call but he also promised to meet the truck at his shop that night. At this point with darkness falling and absolute exhaustion setting in, it was clear that we would spend the night in Revelstoke. We could go to a hotel, but where could we leave the cubs? Amongst many offers Sari Lundberg from Revelstoke offered her parents’ lockable garage which we gratefully accepted. Once back in Revelstoke Tom took a quick look and determined that the water pump on the truck was leaking and need to be replaced. He offered to do so early the next morning despite it being a holiday. Sari’s dad Robert picked up both us and the cubs who were safely stored in his garage and fed and watered before we took a well-deserved rest at a local hotel.
After repairs on Thanksgiving Day we hit the road to take those small cubs to their new temporary home at the shelter.