bear cub
Photo by Tiana Jackson

Bear cub euthanized despite B.C. family’s attempt to save it

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A family in northeastern British Columbia fought to save a black bear cub, only to see it euthanized by a conservation officer. Now, the family is calling on the province to change how it deals with orphaned cubs.

Last Friday, Tiana Jackson found the bear cub sitting on a gravel road near her house, about 50 kilometres outside Dawson Creek. With no mother bear in sight, she phoned the RCMP, who connected her to the Conservation Office.

They told her the conservation officer was about two hours away, so she phoned her brother Shawn for help. 

“We waited and waited and waited, we walked all through the bush—still no sign of the mother,” Shawn told CBC News.

Thinking the cub would starve to death if it was left alone in the wild, they brought it back to Tiana’s home, where they placed it in a 10-foot by 10-foot dog crate, and gave it food and water. In the meantime, they made arrangements with Angelika Langen at the Northern Lights Wildlife Society, a rehabilitation centre in Smithers, B.C.

“We told them that we did [have room] and that we already have cubs of this year so it wouldn’t be a problem,” Langen told The Dawson Creek Mirror. “We also told [them] that the decision whether or not a cub comes to rehab is up to the conservation officers.”

Photo by Tiana Jackson

But after learning the status of the cub over the phone, the conservation officer told Tiana that the bear would have to be put down. 

“I begged him over the phone not to do it,” Tiana wrote in a Facebook post detailing the experience, which has now been shared nearly 3,000 times. “He said it was the most humane thing to do.”

According to Tiana’s post, when the officer arrived, she begged him to let them drive the cub to the rehab centre, but she couldn’t persuade the officer, who then headed to the dog kennel where the Jackson’s were keeping the bear, and gave it a lethal injection.

“Unfortunately our officers are faced with making a number of difficult decisions,” Chris Doyle, deputy chief of provincial operations with the BC Conservation Office, told The Mirror. “The officer in the field made the assessment based on what he saw with the bear’s behaviour… its mobility and its physical condition. The decision was made that the most humane thing to do would be to euthanize it.”

But Tiana doesn’t agree with the officer’s assessment, which is why she plans to file a formal complaint with the BC Conservation Office. She and the rest of her family want the province to establish a new policy, like requiring a vet or wildlife rehabilitation expert to determine the cub’s fate. 

“I think a policy change to involve a veterinarian would satisfy both sides and create a lot less conflict,” Langen said.

But according to the BC Conservation Office, it would create less conflict if the public just left wildlife alone.

Following the incident, the Ministry of Environment also released a statement saying that despite how “cute” a human-conditioned cub might appear, “it can seriously injure or kill people if it grows to become an adult bear without a fear of people.”

“Not a single conservation officer relishes the thought of having to destroy an animal,” the ministry said. “This is the most distressing part of their job, and it is something that is often preventable if citizens do their part to keep wild animals wild.”

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