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Conservation officer refuses to kill 2 bear cubs, is suspended without pay

B.C. conservation officer Bryce Casavant was put on suspension without pay for refusing to follow orders. Not all that shocking until you know that his orders were to kill two healthy bear cubs.

The mother bear was killed near Port Hardy after repeatedly raiding a freezer filled with meat and salmon that was inside a trailer. It’s not uncommon for a wild animal to be killed if it poses a threat to humans or shows signs of aggression, but this was pretty typical animal behavior. Inconvenient for the owner, yes. However, when you live in bear country, certain precautions may need to be taken to ensure that bears (who are quite savvy when it comes to food) can’t raid your home, garbage can or refrigerator. It’s camping lesson 101, essentially.

The cubs returned to the area to look for their mom and were removed from a tree as they cried for her. Casavant was given an order to kill the cubs too. However, he refused. The bears were not causing any threat to humans and were still afraid of humans, meaning they could likely be reintroduced into the wild at some point.

The cubs, who are about 8 weeks old and still nursing, were taken to a veterinary hospital, where they were deemed to be healthy. They are currently at North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington.

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As a conservation officer, whose title implies his duty is to help conserve, it seems odd that an order to kill was even on the table. In a statement to CBC News, Robin Campbell, manager of the recovery centre, said the order was unusual, as these bears are great candidates for release.

Senior biologists, the provincial wildlife veterinarian and the local conservation officer help make the decision whether an animal should be relocated or killed. The B.C. Ministry of Environment is said to be investigating the situation.

As far as I’m concerned, the conservation officer made the right decision, and he should have never been put in that position in the first place. However, if an investigation is necessary, it should be over why the mother was killed, particularly when it was known that she had two cubs. Relocating the whole family so she wouldn’t be a nuisance in that area would have likely been a more practical solution than providing round-the-clock care for two nursing bear cubs and then trying to release them successfully back into the wild. Bears like meat — perhaps a stronger structure for the refrigerator could have also been a consideration. If she couldn’t access the food, she wouldn’t have returned.

There’s a delicate balance between humans and nature, and we have the responsibility to respect and protect it when we can. Killing animals and leaving babies without a mother simply because they were following their natural instinct in their own territory isn’t a practical solution. Let’s hope awareness of this situation drives some policy change.

A petition has been started to help Officer Casavant get his job back.

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