|An RCMP officer poses with two of the bears found at a marijuana grow-op in British Columbia. The bears were quite friendly and wanted to lay on top of investigating officers’ patrol cars.
Actor Jason Priestley has joined a growing global campaign to save more than a dozen docile, mellow black bears that were found protecting a marijuana crop in British Columbia, Canada.
Police discovered 14 bears — which they believed to have been lured there with dog food by the owners to protect the illegal crop from cannabis thieves — wandering happily around the property during a pot raid on July 30.
Officials originally said they planned to destroy the bears if they couldn’t fend for themselves and continued to depend upon human food.
|RCMP officers pose with seized marijuana in the foreground and a black bear in the background.
But the suggestion to euthanize the bears inspired a campaign to save them, with Canadian woman Dorreen McCrindle leading the way on Facebook and through a petition, which has drawn signatures from as far away as China, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and Brazil.
“I felt in my heart and mind that the B.C. government was looking at the cheapest way out,” McCrindle, 42, said, reports The Canadian Press. “And that was basically trying to execute the bears.”
The online petition against possible destruction of the bears tripled in signatures over a 24-hour period, reports CBC News.
|Photo: Ursa Freedom Project
The petition, which accompanies McCrindle’s Facebook site, “Help Save the B.C. Black Bears,” had gathered more than 2,300 signatures by Monday afternoon, up from 700 at roughly the same time Sunday.
McCrindle said she had received many offers of donations to save the B.C. bud bears, including one from actor Priestley and his parents, who together put forward $1,250.
Lorne Priestley, Jason’s father, said Monday from North Vancouver that he and wife Norma support the petition effort, but realize saving the bears will take financial contributions, reports Jeff Bell at the Victoria Times Colonist.
“It’s one thing to have a petition and have a lot of really nice ideas and a warm, fuzzy response, Priestley said. “We kind of figured somebody’s got to start putting up the money to either move the bears someplace where they’ll be safe or support a place where they’ll be safe.”
|Jason Priestley wants to save the B.C. bud bears.
He said he called Jason — now in Vancouver filming a movie — to let him know that a family donation had been made.
McCrindle said she had been told that habituated bears can survive in the wild.
“They will revert to their basic instinct and that’s to forage,” McCrindle told CBC News on Monday.
The British Columbia Ministry of Environment now says it has no immediate plans to kill the bears, but the petition urged people to sign up as the bears were not out of danger yet.
“People are saying it’s not the bears’ fault, but unfortunately we’re left to deal with the consequences of those actions of those people,” said B.C. Environment Minister Barry Penner.
Penner said he hopes the bears will disperse into the wild once they realize their free meal ticket has expired.
“It’s going to be left up to the bears, hopefully, to move on and go back to their more natural lifestyle,” said conservation officer Dave Webster.
“There’s good potential some of those bears won’t be able to do it, just because they’ve been dependent on this site for so long for food,” Webster said. “Once we identify those animals then we’re going to have to decide what to do from there.
Webster claimed it’s not as easy as moving the bears elsewhere, because they’ve never learned to survive on their own.
“Most likely that’s a death sentence for those bears as well,” he said.
According to Webster, the property in question has been cited for “issues related to feeding wildlife” in the past. According to the RCMP, it’s not entirely clear if the people accused of feeding the bears — and now facing marijuana charges — were really using them to guard the crops, or simply liked them as pets.
Webster said he’s even heard the locals refer to the woman at the house as “the Bear Lady.”
Sarah Elmeligi of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness society, while applauding what McCrindle is trying to to, said she wonders why no similar petition was launched a year ago when at least a dozen black bears were shot near Conklin, Alberta, because they were hanging out near a garbage dump.
“No questions asked, nobody raised awareness, nobody started an international petition,” Elmeligi said.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police seized what they claimed was $1 million worth of marijuana plants from the property in remote hill country in the western part of Canada.
Mounties tiptoed around the animals while executing a search warrant.
A man and woman in their 40s living on the site have been charged with marijuana offenses and a free on bail. The couple had calmly shooed one bear from their basement during the raid.
They have been instructed to stop feeding the bears.
“Don’t condemn the couple; put them to work growing medicinal marijuana and operating a black bear sanctuary,” suggested petition signer Gle
nn Ingram of Alberta.
nn Ingram of Alberta.