'My kids were horrified': Mom, children witness N.S. wildlife officials shoot injured bear
HALIFAX -- Marion Mitchell-Mosher has been shaken by an incident this past Sunday -- one she never thought would end the way it did.
The mom and her two young sons were returning from a fun day of boating in Mahone Bay, N.S. The sun was getting low in the sky, and as she was squinting to see, a young bear ran onto the road in front of her car.
She says she wasn't going more than 50 km/hour when she struck the bear with her vehicle. Mitchell-Mosher immediately pulled over and says she was relieved when the bear started moving.
"Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry," Mitchell-Mosher can be heard saying in a video she took of the bear on her cellphone.
"I have video of him, rolling over and sort of, you know, looking around like, 'What just happened?'" she says.
A witness called the RCMP and the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Foresty.
Mitchell-Mosher and her sons got back in their car and watched out the back window as a Lands and Forestry truck with three employees pulled up.
She assured her sons they would help the bear, but that's not what happened.
"We heard the first shot, they shot him in his skull, they had a rifle," she says, "My kids were horrified, I was horrified, and then we heard the second shot."
"It was senseless, a senseless act, it's just disgusting … it's just terrible."
She believes more should have been done to help the animal. After posting about it on social media she's heard from many others who agree.
According to the department, it's received almost 1,100 calls so far this year about black bears. Thirteen bears were relocated and 20 were euthanized because of "injuries or behaviour."
When asked for an interview, a spokesperson with the Department of Lands and Forestry provided this statement:
"Our technicians consider all options before putting an animal down. Their top considerations are the safety of the public, their own safety, and what will minimize the suffering of the animal," writes Brian Taylor in an email. "In this case, a technician assessed the bear on site and determined it had difficulty breathing and indications of severe internal injuries. As such the bear could not be moved. To minimize any more suffering, the most humane thing to do was to put the bear down quickly and painlessly."
Retired provincial zoologist Andrew Hebda says trying to treat an injured animal is always complicated.
"With wildlife it's much more complex because the animal is injured, how much is it injured?" he says. "If it's stunned … it should recover in part with a fairly short period of time, the longer it goes in that state suggests there could be more injury."
"You have to decide, what is the issue there," Hebda adds. "In order then to make the decision to rehabilitate it, you then have to arrange for transportation."
That, says Hebda, requires that the animal be properly sedated and supervised as it is taken to a veterinary facility.
"You have to make arrangements with the centre to be able to deal with medical problems, medical problems have to recover, and then after that, rehabilitate it to the point where it's no longer going to be depending on us, and that's the whole point in successful rehabilitation facilities," says Hebda.
That type of work is exactly what the wildlife rescue Hope for Wildlife does with many different kinds of animals.
The facility's founder, Hope Swinimer, says in this case, she would have had her wildlife veterinary staff assess the young bear.
"We've been trying many, many years to get permission to have the right to rehabilitate black bears in Nova Scotia," says Swinimer.
That permission has never been granted by the province for her rescue, or any other.
The province of New Brunswick , on the other hand, does have an arrangement with a local rescue to rehabilitate and release bear cubs "unlikely to be reunited with their mother due to death, misadventure, or abandonment," according to a spokesperson with New Brunswick's Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development.
But the department also says, "injured bears of any age would not generally be considered for rehabilitation and would be humanely euthanized."
Earlier this spring, Swinimer cared for an orphaned cub at her facility in Seaforth, N.S., but the province's "no-rehab" policy meant officials seized and euthanized it shortly after it was left in her care.
That sparked public outcry and several petitions. Swinimer is now preparing a written proposal for the province that she hopes to present to government this month.
A change in policy that would allow Hope For Wildlife to help injured or orphaned bears is exactly what Marion Mitchell-Mosher would like to see -- to give bears like the one she encountered on Sunday a second chance to live in the wild.
"These bears are just trying to survive," she says. "It's inevitable that this problem is only going to escalate. I believe that Nova Scotia has to do something about it."