THE Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has joined the chorus of people criticizing the decision to release a five-month-old black bear into the wild.

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THE Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has joined the chorus of people criticizing the decision to release a five-month-old black bear into the wild.

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak issued a release saying he's upset with the release of the bear known as Makoon into a remote area, and the government should re-examine its decision.

The bear had been found in the St. Malo area in March and stayed at the Assiniboine Park Zoo as it grew.

Animal advocates wanted the bear to go to a sanctuary to grow even more before being released, but Manitoba Conservation flew the bear to a remote location Tuesday and freed it.

"I am very upset that this government turned a blind eye and ear to solid scientific evidence and the call of thousands of Manitobans on the release of this baby bear cub into nature at this time," the AMC statement said.

"This decision by Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh indicates poor decision-making and displays a lack of concern for the bear's well-being. In addition, this move quite possibly contravenes the province's own animal care legislation. By releasing Makoon into nature at such a young age, this bear will experience extreme anxiety and/or distress that will significantly impair its health and well-being in what will likely be a considerably short life.

"The name Makoon is tied to my family name of 'Niibin Makoonse,' which is the root of my family name many generations ago. As such, I feel a strong connection to these animals... "

First Nations are taught to treat bears with respect and reverence and the province's actions indicates a complete lack of respect not only for the cub, but a complete lack of appreciation for the cultural significance the bear holds in First Nations culture and family," Nepinak's statement said.

-- Gabrielle Giroday