Black bear euthanized after den at Imperial Oil's Kearl site accidentally bulldozed

Imperial Oil says the area was searched for bear dens before and after it was cleared of vegetation for the construction work.

Article content

Imperial Oil is reviewing its policies after a black bear was euthanized after it was injured when its den was accidentally bulldozed. The Dec. 6 incident happened at the company’s Kearl site. The den was in an area close to administrative offices. It had already been searched for bear dens and cleared.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Imperial Oil spokesperson Lisa Schmidt said the den was discovered when a contractor was building a drill pad when the team accidentally hit the den. One black bear was in the den, and the company contacted the Alberta Energy Regulator and Alberta Fish and Wildlife. Wildlife officers arriving at the site said the bear had to be euthanized because of its injuries.

Article content

“We’re very sorry this incident occurred. We always want to make sure they’re operating in a safe and environmentally responsible manner,” said Schmidt. “We are investigating this incident and we’re committed to learning so it doesn’t happen again.”

Schmidt said the area was searched for bear dens before and after it was cleared of vegetation for the construction work. These sweeps also happen in areas where bear dens have been found in the past. Unfortunately, protocols did not prevent the incident.

Advertisement 3

Article content

“We do ensure we have mitigations in place to make sure wildlife is protected. Unfortunately in this case, we did follow the protocols but this was still the outcome,” she said.

A provincial spokesperson could not confirm if the incident is being reviewed or if any charges towards the company are pending.

Schmidt added the incident is not related to any other high profile incidents reported this year at the Kearl site.

The AER is investigating an accidental release of treated water into the Muskeg River from Imperial Oil’s Kearl operation. The water was clean and ready to return to the environment, but Imperial accidentally released roughly triple the legal limit of total suspended solids in the river. Sediment levels in the river have since dropped to safe levels.In another incident, a release at a tailings pond in May 2022 continued for nine months. Communities were told in January when 5.3 million litres of industrial wastewater spilled from a tailings pond into surrounding forests and wetlands.

The regulator issued an environmental protection order against Imperial Oil and told the public about the spill and the ongoing seepage. Nearby Indigenous communities were furious and accused the province, regulator and company of keeping them in the dark for months.

Get the news and events of Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo in your inbox every Friday morning by signing up for our newsletter.

[email protected]

Article content