WINNIPEG -- A Manitoba bear cub rescue has had a busy year after rescuing more than double the number of cubs it had the year before.

Judy Stearns, the owner of Black Bear Rescue Manitoba, said it received 19 bear cubs in 2020 – an increase from nine bear cubs in 2019.

"It was our busiest year yet," said Stearns.

It wasn't just the rescue that had a busier-than-usual year. A spokesperson for the province said the average number of interactions between people and black bears is 1,500. The spokesperson said the number of reports in 2020 was slightly above the long-term average.

"It was just a busy season across the province for bears," said Stearns. "People have been wondering if it's our behaviour that changed due to COVID, that perhaps more people who live in rural areas were home from work and they saw the bears more."

The uptick kept Stearns busy throughout the year. She said she had to spend between 14 and 16 hours a day with the cubs, and had to expand the cubs' enclosure. She said each cub costs about $2,000 to raise.

"It impacted us time-wise and financially, but also it was super rewarding to see that number of bears being released last fall and running off into the woods – that was great," said Stearns.

All but two of the cubs were returned to the woods. Stearns said two cubs died.

As for the year ahead, Stearns said it has been very quiet. They only have two cubs at the rescue that were brought to them in December 2020. So far there have been no other calls.

"We are actually really happy about that because, of course, it is best for the cubs to be with their mothers," she said.

Stearns said if anyone sees a bear cub alone in the wild they can call Black Bear Rescue Manitoba at 204-461-4320, or call their local conservation office.

She said more information about the rescue can be found on its Facebook and Instagram page.