Wildlife Rehabilitation in Alberta

Alberta government officials exercise discretionary authority under the Wildlife Act, RSA 2000 c W-10 to authorize persons to take custody and control of specified wildlife for the purpose of rehabilitation and reintroduction into their habitat. These permits are issued and renewed under section 77 of the Wildlife Regulation, Alta Reg 143/1997 on an annual basis. The process is highly discretionary and non-transparent. This cursory legal framework does not set out criteria or standards, and thus rehabilitation permits are governed by protocols and conditions which can be highly variable and inconsistent.

The Cochrane Ecological Institute (CEI) is an internationally recognized charity dedicated to the rehabilitation and reintroduction of wildlife, with specialized equipment and wildlife expertise on site. CEI has been operating since the mid 1960s west of Calgary. In addition to its rehabilitation work, CEI also advocates for law and policy reform in relation to wildlife and threatened species. CEI has worked extensively with research staff and students at the University of Calgary over the years, and the Clinic has assisted CEI with legal and policy analysis to support its orphan black bear cub rehabilitation work.

CEI rehabilitated and released orphan black bear cubs until 2011, when Alberta Environment issued a policy prohibiting the rehabilitation of black bears. Thereafter, CEI advocated for a restoration of policy that would authorize rehabilitation of orphan black bear cubs in accordance with a scientifically informed protocol. In 2018, Alberta issued a black bear cub rehabilitation protocol. CEI was denied a black bear cub rehabilitation permit in 2022/23, and the Clinic was retained to assist CEI in re-securing approval to rehabilitate orphan black bear cubs which it received in April 2023.

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