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Grizzly bears kill miniature donkeys in Sundre area

For Deborrah Killam there was relief, but also a lingering fear that the nightmare may not be over, after the second of two grizzly bears believed responsible for killing two prized miniature donkeys was captured early Monday.

The grizzly was snared in a trap set by fish and wildlife officers not far from her home 10 km northwest of Sundre.

The capture came only a day after another grizzly was snared after a donkey was found dead and partially buried at the edge of Killam’s five and a half acre property.

Killam thought that was the end of the ordeal.

But on Sunday while she and her husband were at work another donkey was killed only a few metres from their home and carried off to a nearby field by a bear.

“When our first donkey, Sadie, was taken down, us and nobody was expecting the second,” she said Monday from her home.

“I mean bears are so very territorial and adult males have such a humongous territorial area that nobody would have figured there would have been two males in the same area.”

She worries there could be another out there.

Bears have a strong sense of smell and a donkey carcass had been used as bait to catch the second bear.

“How do I know now that another bear is not on his way down getting attracted by the scent?”

Her attention is also focused on caring for Ryann, a two-week-old foal, who was left orphaned when her mother Sadie was killed Saturday.

Ryann’s grandmother and another female, which have recently given birth, have been giving Ryann milk as long as they are distracted with a bucket of feed. It’s the only way to provide the young donkey enough nutrients to survive.

“We’re hoping that can continue, or else in the long run we might end up losing baby (Ryann) as well.”

The donkeys have always been more than a hobby to Killam. They came into her life after a car accident claimed her 11-month-old son and left her badly injured. While still recovering from the accident, she was diagnosed with cancer.

Deeply depressed, she unexpectedly found herself with an opportunity to buy a miniature donkey, Emma, which turned out to be pregnant with Sadie.

“I actually credit Emma and Sadie for my life. They were my saviours when I needed them,” she said. “When Sadie died, a part of my soul died.”

Killam and husband Jeff Trithart have been raising the donkeys to provide touch therapy and serve other therapeutic needs for those with special needs and residents of nursing homes.

More than once she has seen a child with Down’s Syndrome develop a bond with one of her donkeys and she has said goodbye to animals she never thought she would sell.

The deaths of the donkeys from her herd of 23 have also thrown Killam’s plans to expand her breeding operation into turmoil.

The second donkey killed, Mystique, was a rare blue-eyed white donkey that could not be replaced for less than US$45,000 and years on a waiting list. She had hoped to breed her with her only other white donkey.

Considering the offspring that could have been produced, the donkeys’ deaths means losses in the hundreds of thousands.

Compensation is not available from the provincial government because donkeys, like horses, llamas, and ostriches, are not considered part of Alberta’s food industry.

Dave Ealey, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development spokesman, said the captured grizzlies will be relocated to Northern Alberta, hopefully far enough way from humans to cause any more problems.

Ealey said the province tries to avoid doing anything to further impact the province’s bear population.

A decision to shoot a dozen black bears regularly visiting a northern community’s landfill last week caused controversy. That was a different situation because those bears had become accustomed to humans and could not be safely moved elsewhere.

The bears trapped near Sundre showed no signs they were after anything other than livestock, which would be natural prey for the animals trying to fatten up for winter.

Fish and wildlife officers say there has been a fair amount of bear activity, but not more than expected for this time of year.

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