Orphaned grizzly cubs euthanized

(Courtesy Twitter/Olson_AG)

(Courtesy Twitter/Olson_AG)

Michael Platt, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:51 AM ET

CALGARY -- They were a couple of the cutest grizzly cubs you'll ever see -- but tragically, "were" is the operative word.

Found nestled in a grain bin south of Lethbridge, Alta., the baby bruins had taken shelter in the wheat while waiting for mom to return -- and a photograph of the twins, snapped by the surprised farmer, is now a hit on social media.

The Twitter hashtag reads "#sofreakingcute" -- and they certainly were.

But the cubs' mother was found dead nearby, and wildlife officers were left with a difficult choice.

"We did make enquiries to see if zoos were interested in them, because cubs of that age, the chances of them surviving were minimal," said Lyle Lester, a senior officer with Alberta Fish and Wildlife.

"Without an adult present it could be a slow, painful death if they were to starve -- so our options were to put them down, or release them. And we didn't release them."

On Friday, the cubs were euthanized, Alberta Fish and Wildlife having failed to find any zoo willing to adopt them.

In a province where grizzlies are listed as threatened, deliberately killing two unwanted cubs seems like a contradiction in common sense -- but Lester says the lack of a home for the orphans left officers with no real choice.

"As of Friday morning we hadn't found a zoo to take them, so unfortunately they were put down -- as much as that's distasteful for everybody involved, it was the best thing for these little gaffers," said Lester.

It's a situation that speaks to the imbalance in Alberta grizzly populations, and debate over whether the bears deserve to be protected in the province.

There are areas of Alberta habitat where the bears remain incredibly rare, and with an official count of just 760 grizzlies provincewide, the hunting ban started in 2006 continues.


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