From Paws to Talons: The Caretakers of Vancouver Island’s Wildlife


Check up © Courtesy of the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association

There is nothing more challenging and rewarding than caring for an animal in need—and when it’s a black bear on Vancouver Island, B.C., the challenge triples.

Imagine finding a black bear cub alone in the forest with devastating injuries. Who do you call for help? That is where the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association (NIWRA) comes into play.

After receiving a call about an injured animal, a conservation officer with NIWRA will arrive to assess the scene. In this particular situation, our officers were called to respond to a bear cub, whom we later named Q.B. Cub, who was found with a devastating injury to its hip.

Our team at the centre is trained to face any case that is admitted—whether it’s an injured cub like Q.B. Cub or a bird with a broken wing. Similarly, our team is full of very caring and nurturing people.

After rescuing Q.B. Cub, our veterinarian Dr. Malcolm McAdie examined the bear with the help of NIWRA’s animal care specialists. They sedated the bear and took blood samples, which helped them determine the weight, gender, and age of the bear. Then, the team crafted a plan for the Q.B. Cub’s care, which consisted of monitoring an infected injury.

north island wildlife recovery association
© Courtesy of the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association

The injury Q.B. Cub sustained was extensive—but luckily, the cub broke no bones. After the team’s assessment, it was still unclear how Q.B. Cub sustained his injuries; however, injuries to wildlife often occur from vehicle collisions.

After bringing Q.B. Cub back to the NIWRA facility, Dr. McAdie monitored his recovery. He examined the cub closely, noticing that Q.B. Cub was improving with steady antibiotics and treatment. A short while later, Q.B. Cub was deemed a releasable bear—which is always a good feeling for us at NIWRA.

Bear cubs admitted to the centre stay for at least 18 months. At NIWRA, we have three bear enclosures—a nursery, a juvenile enclosure and a pre-release open-air enclosure.

NIWRA has been in operation since 1985, with our mandate being to care for ill, injured and orphaned wildlife and to educate the public about wildlife and environmental issues. We admit over 700 animals a year with the hope of them returning to the wild. Nearly 95 per cent of admissions are due to humans, directly or indirectly, such as vehicle collisions, cat attacks, electrocutions or poisonings. Without the help of NIWRA, many of these animals would not survive—this is why we have an extensive educational program, complete with school visiting opportunities, countless online learning resources, and infographics detailing important tips for supporting and saving animals in your area.

Caring for bears takes a lot of dedication and money. The enclosures are costly, as is the feed, but our partners at the Qualicum First Nations Band supply us with fish for the bears. As we are not government-funded, money comes from the caring public like yourselves. With the help of generous donations and community support, NIWRA has rescued 24,850 birds and animals on Vancouver Island—and counting!


NIWRA, a non-profit organization, is situated in Errington, B.C. We are open to the public daily for viewing of non-releasable animals. Please visit our website at to learn more about our programs, read stories about our animals, and learn how you can help care for wildlife.

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Founded in 1985, the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association (NIWRA) is a non-profit, world-class rehabilitation facility situated on 8 acres of immaculately manicured grounds, caring for animals with all types of needs, including birds with broken wings, orphaned black bears, electrocuted eagles and much more!


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