When Eric Volpatti saw a bear cub wandering around his neighbour’s yard, he somehow knew it was in trouble. The bear was moving slowly and cautiously, bumping into objects. After falling off a six-foot retaining wall, the cub panicked, and crashed headfirst into Volpatti’s truck.
While bears are a common sight in the West Kootenay village of Montrose, Volpatti knew this cub was different.
“I didn’t know what to do, but I didn’t want it to hurt itself any more,” Volpatti said in an interview with Postmedia.
Against his better judgment, Volpatti approached the bear, slowly stroking its back. Then the bear stood on its hind legs and Volpatti rubbed its head and chest.
Close-up, he realized the cub was likely blind. Its eyes were glazed over and it seemed confused. Volpatti also noticed that the bear was severely malnourished and appeared motherless.
He called 911 to contact a conservation officer.
Once Volpatti gained the bear’s trust, he asked his girlfriend, Natasha Bailey, to grab their dog’s leash and collar. He fastened the collar around the bear and attached the red leash.
A neighbour brought over some apples to feed the bear. However, like a baby or a puppy, the cub would only eat of Volpatti’s hands. And even though the bear was gentle, he ended up biting Volpatti’s hand and ripping open his skin. He later needed to get four stitches.
Shortly after, RCMP officers arrived at the scene. Upon investigating the situation, the officers concluded the cub would need to be euthanized as it would starve or be attacked by coyotes if returned to the wild.
The RCMP consulted with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, which also agreed that euthanizing the bear was the only option. Volpatti was crushed when he heard the news, but understood the reasoning.
“All in all, it was an amazing experience for the neighbourhood here, seeing the bear up close in nature like that, but it was a terrible outcome for the bear.”