Despite public support, conservation officer who refused to kill baby bears removed from job

Baby bears

Despite overwhelming support and more than 300,000 signatures urging otherwise, officer Bryce Casavant has officially been removed from his job as a conservation officer near Port Hardy, British Columbia.

After refusing orders to kill eight-week-old brother and sister bear cubs, Casavant took the pair to a veterinarian for a health assessment. The two, now known as Jordan and Athena, are being cared for at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre near Nanaimo, and are scheduled for release into a remote habitat in 2016.

The original event even garnered support from celebrities such as British comedian Ricky Gervais, who upon hearing about the officer’s original suspension called Casavant an “honourable man” and insisted that he be reinstated.

B.C. Conservation Services stands firm in their decision to first suspend and now transfer the officer, who many regard as a hero, out of his job. While Casavant is still working on Vancouver Island, he is no longer working in conservation. According to the Vancouver Sun, his employer claims that their decision to remove Casavant from his work with Conservation Services was “not disciplinary.”

Casavant’s union—and animal lovers worldwide—disagree.

The B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) is filing a second grievance concerning the matter, having already filed grievance for Casavant’s original suspension. Stephanie Smith, president of BCGEU, told the Vancouver Sun that “Officer Casavant was transferred out of his position as a conservation officer, a career path that he had chosen for himself. So we believe that this is disciplinary.”

Smith believes that Officer Casavant was following procedures when he made his decision, refusing to euthanize the bears without first doing a risk assessment.

Robin Campbell, operator of North Island Wildlife Recovery Association, also agrees and is “devastated” by the decision to transfer Casavant out of his line of work, praising his “intelligence” and “professionalism.”

“Bryce has put down bears before, that’s not the issue,” Campbell told the Toronto Star. “Killing something for no reason was the issue.”

BCGEU says the arbitration hearing for Casavant will be scheduled as soon as possible.