THE movement to keep a black bear cub from being released back into the wild is growing in Manitoba.

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This article was published 12/6/2012 (3383 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

René Dubois in April with Makoon

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES

René Dubois in April with Makoon

THE movement to keep a black bear cub from being released back into the wild is growing in Manitoba.

Conservation officials say they plan to release the cub named Makoon into the wild this month if things go well with his rehabilitation at the Assiniboine Park Zoo.

They say he is now 30 pounds and quite healthy.

But many fear the bear will likely die if he is put out now on his own.

There is an online petition underway and another petition on paper, with thousands of names on it, calling on the province to send Makoon to a bear sanctuary.

A rally is planned today at the zoo where the animal is being housed.

"If they release him prematurely, he's going to suffer and there's another option available to him," said Judy Stearns, an animal advocate.

She fears Makoon is not yet old enough to be put back into the wild.

"It's the size of a raccoon or a medium sized dog and we have enough predators in Manitoba that he would be attacked and killed..., or he would die a slow death by starvation," said Stearns.

René Dubois brought the cub home in the area after he found him abandoned near the side of the road.

"The cub was in distress. I picked him up and brought him here," said Dubois in his home in April.

After helping feed and care for Makoon, Dubois turned him over to Manitoba Conservation. The cub was then sent to the Assiniboine Park Zoo to be rehabilitated.

"He's doing well. Physically, he's thriving under the care provided by the zoo," said James Duncan, wildlife director for Manitoba Conservation.

"It's reached the stage of physical development where the research suggests it does have a good chance of surviving in the wild -- up to 50 per cent chance."

The provincial conservation minister said he will take advice from experts in his department.

"We're making sure that they're the ones that are looking at the research that are paying attention to the science, they'll be making decisions based on that," said Gord Mackintosh.

The province has said they can't give Makoon to a haven at another province over fears of spreading disease.

 

-- The Canadian Press