Twin black bear cubs Kenai and Koda are thriving at Critter Care, a wildlife rehabilitation centre in south Langley, after being brought to the centre when they were so small, their eyes were still closed. On April 23, the centre will hold its annual fundraising gala.

Critter Care fundraising gala aims to provide bear necessities

Event will help help support orphaned and injured wildlife after refuge took in record number of bears in the past year

In a normal year, Critter Care admits between eight and 16 orphaned black bear cubs. This year, they have 32.

The Langley-based wildlife rehabilitation centre is caring for the hungry bruins, with the most recent babies arriving March 3 with their “eyes closed, and bawling,” said Critter Care founder Gail Martin.

The twin brothers, now named Kenai and Koda, were rescued from a logging road in Nelson. The pair are now thriving in their temporary home in Langley.

With such a busy time in animal care, Critter Care is just about to host its biggest fundraiser of the year and organizers are hoping it sells out.

Critter Care’s annual dinner and auction takes place Saturday, April 23 starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Cascades Casino ballroom. Master of ceremonies will once again be Global TV’s Linda Aylesworth.

“This fundraising event is very important to us and the many animals that we care for,” said Martin.

“This past fall and winter found us looking after 32 desperate bear cubs who were literally starving out in the wild in all areas of Southern B.C. In addition to the influx of bear cubs there are many other animals like raccoons, squirrels, deer and others needing care.”

The Canadian dollar’s drop in value has cost Critter Care. The species-specific formula they purchase comes from the United States, so it has hurt their buying power, Martin said.

“Baby season is now in full swing and many babies will soon be knocking on our doors,” she added.

Funds raised at the gala will go toward the specialized milk formula, medicines and vaccines as well as the cost involved in releasing the bear cubs and other animals  over the next few weeks, she said.

In order to accommodate the influx of starving cubs last summer, Critter Care had to convert some of their enclosures.

“It is hard to say no to starving little guys, so we added cubs to existing enclosures and opened up our fawn enclosure, which is a large enclosure and had the late Hoover’s cage made into a bear enclosure, to the tune of $30,000,” said Martin.

No one really knows why there were so many cubs last year but only three of the young bears came from sows that had been hit by cars.

While poaching and hunting plays a major part, it was due to the drought as well, said Martin.

The berries ripened early and there was little for bears to eat. Some mother bears were abandoning their young, being emaciated themselves.

Cubs arrived from Clinton, Merritt, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler, Powell River, from all over the Sunshine Coast, Yarrow, Mission, Agassiz, Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, Pemberton, and Burnaby.

Seeing the crisis at Critter Care, the community stepped up, said Martin.

“What a wonderful group of people, and companies you are, you all stepped forward with supplies, food and donations to help make our lives a little easier and the lives of all my babies,” Martin said in her most recent newsletter.

After 30 years of helping B.C.’s orphaned and injured wildlife, Martin is tired but determined to keep going.

“So many people have asked me over the years, ‘Gail, why one more squirrel running up a tree or one more bear cub racing through the forest?’

“After 30 years [of doing this] my answer is always the same:  ‘Because these animals are our native heritage and every little life is a miracle and every life deserves that second chance.’”

The April 23 gala is Critter Care’s first major fundraising event of the year and support is greatly needed.

There are about 50 tickets left. Call 604-530-2054 to reserve.