SUNDRE — Fish and wildlife officers are on the hunt for the second of two grizzly bears thought responsible for mauling a pair of miniature donkeys to death near Sundre.
One bear has been caught but officers are now searching for another bruin that has preyed on the farm belonging to Deborrah Killam and her husband Jeff Trithart.
The couple raise miniature donkeys for therapeutic purposes for special needs people and residents of nursing homes.
Killam came home from work recently to feed her 23 donkeys, only to find four-year-old Sadie was missing.
She then spotted a blood trail and paw prints leading into the woods.
Then she made the horrific discovery that Sadie had been killed.
“Our fence was stepped over … this thing was obviously big enough,” said Killam. “He buried her — we found her hind legs sticking out.”
“A two-week old foal is now without a mother.”
On Sunday, Killam and Trithart discovered their 13-year-old donkey named Mystique had also been killed.
“I’m really hurt by it — I can’t even describe it in words,” Killam said, adding she’s also heard of bear attacks on sheep and cattle near Sundre, 130 km northwest of Calgary.
Following up on concerns earlier in the week about a bear in the area, fish and wildlife officers caught and relocated one grizzly early Saturday morning.
Officers then learned the second donkey had been killed, prompting the search for the second bruin, said Sustainable Resource Development spokesman Dave Ealey.
Snares have been set up to try to capture and relocate it, Ealey said.
He said it’s not uncommon for grizzlies to encroach on backyards or feed on livestock being raised in bear country.
“In some places it’s partly due to poor berry crops — other places it’s because people leave food out,” he said.
“If they see donkeys or other small animals that are vulnerable, they will go after them.”
Killam said the donkeys were like children to her.
The docile animals brought meaning back to her life after she was in a car accident that killed her infant son Brandon in Houston, B.C., in 1997, and then was diagnosed with cancer three months later.
“I credit my life to some of them,” she said.
Killam said the donkeys will be kept under closer supervision when they are outside the barn.
“I can’t emotionally handle another animal being taken down,” she said.