(North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre / Facebook)

A bear cub named “Malcolm” has unfortunately and unexpectedly died following an accident at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre (NIWRC).

Malcolm was rescued this summer near Nanaimo by Whale Centre co-owner John Forde. The cub was extremely thin and was found hiding near the body of his deceased mother.

“The cub appeared to be sleeping on top of the mother and it looked actually like the cub had been suckling off of the dead mother. It was pretty rough,” Forde told CTV back in May.

“It was in really rough shape, very malnourished and to the point where they figure if we hadn’t had got it that day, it probably wouldn’t have lasted another.”

When Malcolm arrived at NIWRC he was treated for initial health problems associated with serious emaciation and hypoglycemia.

Since then, the recovery centre said he was progressing well physically and behaviourally, and was eventually moved into a larger pre-release enclosure that he took to readily.

On the morning of his death, Malcolm was observed on CCTV camera playing contentedly in the enclosure.

By the afternoon, however, staff noticed he was immobile on the ground and immediately attended to him but found he had already passed. The recovery centre believes that Malcolm managed to get his head and neck caught inside in a small rope handle attached to a plastic buoy that was suspended by a chain from a tree stump.

There was no signs of a struggle and staff believe he asphyxiated quickly.

Video of Malcom playing with a similar rope 5 months ago:


“Over the years, these suspended buoys have been a common source of enrichment for the NIWRA bears (and they routinely spend a lot of time interacting and playing with them) and there have never been any hint of injuries or mishaps,” said the wildlife centre in a Facebook post announcing the event.

“Understandably we are quite upset and shocked by this event and will take precautions to ensure that this scenario is not repeated.”

According to North Island, the buoy had been in place since Malcolm moved into the enclosure back in October.

“Caring for these special animals is an emotionally intense experience and we feel this loss profoundly. However, we will learn from this and be better at what we do.”

Subscribe to the Victoria Buzz newsletter to receive the latest news, events and more directly to your inbox. Every day.