ST. MALO -- The man who rescued a baby bear from a ditch nine days ago said the animal is in better hands after Manitoba Conservation seized it late Tuesday afternoon.

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This article was published 3/4/2012 (3453 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

 Rene Dubois of St. Malo  with bear cub.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Rene Dubois of St. Malo with bear cub.

ST. MALO -- The man who rescued a baby bear from a ditch nine days ago said the animal is in better hands after Manitoba Conservation seized it late Tuesday afternoon.

Officials came to Rene Dubois' home in St. Malo, about 65 kilometres south of Winnipeg, took the bear away and said it would be taken to Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg.

"I was pretty sad, but we can't keep him," Dubois said Tuesday evening. "It'll be looked after by people who know what they're doing.

"Now it's going to a better place."

Dubois spotted the cuddly critter in a ditch alongside the highway while driving. After waiting 10 minutes to see if mama bear was around, he put the cub in his truck.

"I felt sorry for him," Dubois said. The cub, barely able to stand, appeared to be starving. "He would have been dead. No chance for survival."

After arriving home in St. Malo, Dubois contacted a Conservation official, who said he might be fined for his actions. Conservation told him it's illegal to keep a wild animal and they would euthanize the cub if Dubois couldn't find it an appropriate home.

When they came to St. Malo to seize the bear, officials told Dubois they weren't going to charge him.

"I'm not going to be fined, which is a good thing," he said. "I just couldn't leave him there. I saved its life, I think."

A bear sanctuary in Ontario, which specializes in reintroducing bears to the wild, has offered to take the cub. It is trying to work with Conservation to find a solution.

The Dubois family quickly grew attached to their house guest. Initially, Jeanne, Rene's wife, was hesitant about allowing a wild animal into their home, but was quickly won over.

"He's part of the family now," Jeanne said Tuesday morning. Just like a little child, "he plays all day and then he drops in his bed."

Dubois fed the bear a mixture of fruit, drizzled with honey, and a mixture of Pablum and milk from a baby's bottle.

It wasn't long before they wanted to name the cub. Dubois asked his granddaughter to search the Internet for an aboriginal name for the cub. She came up with makoon, "little bear."

Makoon quickly became a celebrity. Rene estimated 600 people have already visited the cute furball.

Stella Dubois, a cousin and neighbour, brought her sons, one-year-old Miguel and three-year-old Xavier, to see the bear and she wasn't concerned about Makoon.

"It's a baby bear. I don't think it's really dangerous at this point," she said.

Stella said it would be a shame if Conservation puts Makoon down. "It's not the bear's fault that it was starving and dying on the side of the road."

Rene Dubois, an avid hunter took the cub to a local daycare and retirement home last week, but has turned down an opportunity to display the cub at a school, out of concern for the children.

kgraham@freepress.mb.ca