Mon. Jun 14th, 2021

Animal rescue leader feels ‘betrayed’ after Quebec euthanizes bear seen wandering in West Island

4 min read

Wildlife Ministry officials say the animal no longer feared urban settings and hence posed a danger to people.

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The young bear seen wandering for hours through the streets and backyards of Dorval and Pointe-Claire on Sunday has been euthanized by Quebec’s wildlife ministry.

Animal rescue groups who worked for hours to capture the bear alive reacted with anger and dismay Tuesday, saying they had been assured the bear would be released into the wild. Sauvetage Animal Rescue said it had lined up several wildlife refuges who were willing to take the bear.

A petition calling for the resignation of Quebec’s wildlife minister created Monday night had garnered more than 3,300 signatures by Tuesday.

Officials with Quebec’s Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks told the Journal de Montréal Monday night the bear was put down because he no longer feared urban settings, and posed a safety risk. There was a good possibility the bear could repeat his foray into a heavily populated area, putting residents in danger, officials said.

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When captured, the bear was in a stressed condition due to all the noise and attention, which could have led him to act out, officials said. The bear was about 1½ years old, and likely in search of food. The ministry did not respond to several requests for comment from the Montreal Gazette.

Michel Vincent, director of communications for the minister responsible for forests, wildlife and parks, Pierre Dufour, referred questions to the ministry. He said the minister would not comment on the petition calling for his resignation.

It took four organizations and four tranquilizer darts to capture the bear after residents reported seeing the animal in their neighbourhood Sunday around 1 p.m. Police and wildlife experts advised residents to stay indoors.

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“I am truly very angry with this situation, very disappointed, very bitter,” said Éric Dussault, director of Sauvetage Animal Rescue. “It’s not the first time that I give my trust to officials with the wildlife ministry, and this trust is always trampled upon and betrayed.

“I have the impression that the ministry is always looking for the easy solution.”

Dussault said volunteers with his organization were on the scene minutes after getting the call about the bear, but then had to wait until 3:30 p.m. for an official from the wildlife ministry, which has to be called in the case of bear sightings, to appear on the scene. The security agent had no tranquilizer gun, so another agent had to be called, he said. It wasn’t until 7 p.m., with the aid of additional tranquilizers supplied by a veterinarian called by Sauvetage Animal Rescue and delivered by police officers with their sirens blaring, that the bear was finally sedated enough to be coaxed safely out of the tree, at about 7 p.m.

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The bear was secured and placed in a cage in a ministry pickup truck. Rescue groups were told it would be released in a secluded area.

“If this was not possible, we were okay with that,” Dussault said. “But we had lined up several refuges who were willing to take the bear, and let it live out its days in captivity, but in a suitable, large environment.”

Since bear captures in Montreal are a rare event, the saving of one bear would not have required many resources, Dussault said. He suggested ministry officials couldn’t be bothered to handle the situation on a holiday long weekend.

“And now we have this sad ending. If they just could have taken the hand we offered them, it would have taken just a few minutes.”

The petition calling for the resignation of Dufour cites the ministry’s decision to euthanize deer rather than put them in reserves, the euthanization of the bear, and the ministry’s refusal to fund animal rescue organizations as reasons for his removal.

rbruemmer@postmedia.com

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