Bear euthanized after Imperial Oil unintentionally bulldozes den

A black bear has been euthanized after its den was “unintentionally bulldozed” by Imperial Oil, the province’s energy regulator told CBC News.

The incident occurred on Dec. 6 near the Kearl oilsands project in northern Alberta, according to the company.

Imperial Oil spokesperson Lisa Schmidt said in a statement that a contractor was building a drill pad in a previously cleared area when “equipment accidentally impacted a concealed bear den.”

A black bear in the den was injured and euthanized by Alberta Fish and Wildlife.

The oil giant said it contracts a “third-party, Indigenous-owned company” to do wildlife sweeps to identify wildlife dens, bird nests or other wildlife features.

It said the area was swept before construction began, but no dens or areas considered suitable for dens were found.

Imperial Oil declined an interview request.

“We are very sorry this incident occurred. We continually work to ensure our business operates in a safe and environmentally responsible manner,” the statement to CBC News said.

Construction has stopped while more wildlife sweeps are done, and the company has opened an investigation. It is unclear how long the stoppage will last and how long the investigation will take.

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) was also notified, and inspectors visited the site on Dec. 7. The Kearl project site is located 70 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, Alta.

“The AER continues to gather information to determine the cause and circumstances that led to the incident and to determine if Imperial followed AER requirements,” the regulator said in a statement to CBC News.

Latest occurrence involving oil giant

The mishap is another blow to the beleaguered oil company, which has been in the hot seat since news emerged earlier this year that it failed to notify Indigenous communities of a spill upstream for nine months.

Imperial Oil, along with AER, was summoned before lawmakers in Ottawa to answer questions about accountability and transparency.

Phillip Meintzer, a conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association, said this latest case casts a light on another concern for the organization.

“It’s another example where these projects are having environmental consequences that aren’t being caught,” he said. “It highlights our concerns that adequate monitoring maybe is not taking place with these projects.”

Meintzer said monitoring protocols should be reviewed to ensure that they are adequate and sufficient.

“If we’re adding new mines, expanding mines, adding drilling sites, we need to make sure that expansion is regulated or monitored in such a way to minimize our impact on wildlife,” he said, “whether it’s a tailings seepage that impacts watersheds and aquatic ecosystems or neighbouring Indigenous communities or, in this case, making sure that we’re not missing a bear.”

WATCH | First Nation residents demand answers from Imperial Oil over leak:

First Nation residents demand answers on oilsands leak

Imperial Oil faced angry questions in Fort Chipewyan, Alta., over why it took nine months to disclose a major tailings pond leak at the company’s Kearl oilsands project.

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