bear cubs
Photo by North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre/Facebook

B.C. conservation officer who refused to kill bear cubs won’t be returning to job

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The conservation officer who was suspended from his job for refusing to kill two baby black bears won’t be returning to his position.

Last summer, Officer Bryce Casavant defied orders to euthanize the cubs after their mother, a nuisance bear who repeatedly ransacked a freezer in Port Hardy, B.C., was put down. Instead of killing the two cubs, who had caused no harm, Casavant tranquilized them and brought them to a nearby veterinary hospital.

The bears were then relocated to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Arrington, B.C. The recovery centre’s manager, Robin Campbell, told reporters that Casavant did the right thing, and that because the cubs were in good health and still feared humans, they could one day be reintroduced to the wild.

But Campbell wasn’t the only one who supported Casavant’s decision. Comedian and animal rights activist Ricky Gervais backed his decision in a tweet that helped Casavant’s story gain international attention. An online petition asking Environment Minister Mary Polak to reinstate him eventually reached more than 300,000 supporters.

Despite the overwhelming public support, Casavant was transferred out of the Conservation Officer Service last August. The union representing him filed a grievance against the move, in addition to a grievance already filed over Casavant’s suspension in July. But the Times Colonist recently reported that Casavant won’t be returning to his job as a conservation officer. Instead, he agreed to move into a position as a natural resource officer with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, while also pursuing his PhD at Victoria’s Royal Roads University.

Interestingly, his PhD research will focus on “the social aspects of conflict wildlife.”

“I think there’s different social perceptions within society of predators, and how that relates to the urban interface, how that shapes our prevention and response measures,” he told the Times Colonist.

Although it’s a different direction for Casavant, he said that he accepted the consequences for how he handled the bear cubs, both of which are doing well.

The cubs, which were named Jordan and Athena, are still living at the recovery centre alongside six other bear cubs. According to reports, they emerged from hibernation about a month ago, and will likely be released on Vancouver Island later this year.

“It looks very positive,” Campbell said.

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