Mary O’keese and her friend Clara Wabano have been trying to aid a black bear that is still out in frigid winter weather in their community of Eabametoong, Ont. (Clara Wabano) Some members of a remote northern Ontario First Nation are worried about a black bear that’s still wandering outside in the cold.
Members of the community first noticed the bear in the fall, said Mary O’keese, who lives in Eabametoong (also known as Fort Hope) First Nation, located about 360 km north of Thunder Bay.
"It’s been sighted off and on. We weren’t worried until the first day of winter … that’s when we started to get worried he was still out," she said.
A black bear out in the heart of winter is an almost unheard of sight in the remote community, where temperatures over the holidays were reaching –47 C with the wind chill, she said.
"It’s cold out there, and I have dogs here and they’re not outside because it’s too cold … [the bear’s] supposed to be hibernating." Makeshift shelter
The bear has been hanging out at the dump outside of the community, she said.
Several days ago, O’keese said her friend suggested that they try to help the bear by building it a makeshift shelter.
They made the shelter by digging a hole in the snow and using twigs and branches to shelter it, she said, adding that it "looks pretty comfortable," and the dump site is far enough from town that they’re not concerned about the bear wandering too close to the community.
O’keese said she can’t explain why a bear would be out so late in the season. "Maybe not enough food, maybe he’s sick. I don’t know," she said.
Whatever the reason, O’keese said she’s worried about the bear making it through the winter.
She said some people have suggested putting the bear down, but she hopes that won’t be necessary. Her hope is that an animal sanctuary further south might be interested in giving the animal a new home.
O’keese said the bear was seen poking around the makeshift shelter after she placed some food in it.
"It’s heartbreaking to look at that bear," she said.
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