Orphaned bear cub found in B.C. chicken coop making full recovery

When Miranda Charles checked on her hen house and discovered a bear cub had slipped under the coop’s chain link fence, the crime scene was different than you might expect.

Rather than finding the intruder licking its paws clean and surrounded by rustled feathers, Charles found the cub peacefully living with her chicks. 

The 10-month-old cub had lived with the chickens, sharing their food and shelter, for around five days before Charles noticed the cub at her home’s coop in Midway, B.C.

Thought to be orphaned, the baby bear weighed only 10-kilograms, a third less than the healthy weight of 30-kilograms

Charles and her family notified the B.C. Conversation Officer Service, but were told that the bear would have to be put down. Unwilling to accept that fate, they called the Northern Light Wildlife Society in Smithers, B.C., who agreed to care for the orphaned cub.

The cub, which has been named Tinsel after the coop’s title, arrived at the shelter on Christmas Eve. Thought to be orphaned for over two months, the cub was lethargic, shy, and extremely malnourished. At the shelter, the cub first subsisted on milk and porridge and then slowly began eating solid foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, and meat.

Only after a few days, the cub put on enough weight to climb and play with caretakers.

Angelika Langen, who works at the shelter, said she’s never heard of a tale like Tinsel’s in her 23 years of helping animals.

“Usually they break into the chick coop and eat the chickens … not eat with the chickens,” Langen told the CBC.

She says it’s likely the cub didn’t kill the chickens because it didn’t see them as threats or prey.

“The bear was too small and weak to harm the chickens. In fact, the chickens would be able to hurt the bear. There were some large chickens in the coop, including a rooster that could be quite aggressive. The bear was too young to even see the chickens as something to attack,” she told the National Post.

Tinsel will skip hibernation this winter and, instead, focus on bulking up and regaining strength. The shelter hopes the cub will be ready to re-enter the wild as early as this summer, where it’s unknown if he’ll continue his poultry-free diet or develop a taste for chicken wings.