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“There’d be no hunters and fewer predators if he was released in the winter,” she said.
Even so, officials with Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) were to arrive at the sanctuary Monday afternoon to position a baited trap to be used for the animal’s return to the wilderness.
The bear was a three-month-old cub when he was dropped off anonymously in a crate in the institute’s parking lot last May, and it’s not known where in the wild he was found, she said.
That uncertainty is what led to the choice of the PLUZ for its return to the wild, said an AEP spokeswoman.
But the bear would be better off beginning his winter hiatus in a hibernation box at the institute north of Cochrane, she said.
“He hasn’t been hibernating in it yet, but he has been using it in these winter conditions,” said Smeeton.
Winter releases have been shown to result in an 80 per cent survival rate, nearly double those made in the summer or fall, she said.
The box and bear could be transported to a more remote release site in a few months, she said — possibly a lease held by Husky Energy used by the institute for that purpose in 2012.
She was hoping to hear a response from the company on Friday and that provincial officials would delay the move until at least then.
But on Monday, an AEP official said they’re taking measures to ensure Siksi’naam is given the best possible chance for survival.
“For bear releases, our top priority is always the well being of the animal. We look for areas with good habitat and remote settings away from people,” spokeswoman Jennifer Dagsvik said in an email. “The Ghost Recreation Land Zone was chosen because it meets both of those requirements.”