Clover the Kermode bear, who has sparked controversy with his captivity at the B.C. Wildlife Park, is still denned up for winter.
But while he sleeps, the humans running the park are planning how to build a Kermode-friendly enclosure.
Park manager Glen Grant said Friday experts on zoo design and bear habitat are being consulted before Clover’s new enclosure is designed.
“We’re still in the planning stage right now. We want to do the best thing and the right thing for him,” he said.
“To appease some of the special interest groups and activists, if he’s going to stay here, we want to make sure he has the absolute best home he can have. That means calling in some bear experts in and a designer who works with zoological parks and habitat design. Then we’ll talk to someone with the best background about the vegetation.”
Planning is expected to wrap up around late spring. Grant said the size of the enclosure and features to keep the bear from becoming bored are among considerations.
Once that’s done, then a fundraising campaign can begin, he said.
“It’s hard to raise money without a concept and a budget of exactly what we’re doing,” he said.
An enclosure similar to what the black bears are in, which includes an interpretive shelter, could cost between $500,000 and $600,000.
But there’s a chance that all the analysis and study could show that the two black bears should be moved to another part of the park, along with Clover.
“I have a location in mind, around where the wolves are, so he’s close to the black bears. But maybe we move them both. It’s a chance to look at the footprint and the entire master plan for the park,” Grant said.
“We’d like to have a plan fairly soon, by the end of spring. But we’re looking at completing our wildlife health centre and hospital.”
If the planning goes as hoped, construction might be done by late summer or fall, he said.
“I’m cautious about saying whether he’ll be out (for public viewing) this year or next year. We just want to do it right.”
Even if Clover has to remain in his current location for several months, the park is looking at whether it can take in small groups with a staff member to visit him.
“At this point, it’s not a place where public could view him. I’ve discussed with board and staff about making him viewable to the public. Perhaps controlled visits of 10 or 12 to go with keeper on a Saturday or Sunday. We don’t want him completely shut out. We want the public to connect with him,” Grant said.
The park’s two grizzly bears have already roused from their winter’s sleep, but Clover and the two black bears have not. The grizzlies are in an area that gets sunshine, however, while the other three are in a shaded part of the park.