Bear cubs
Photo by CBC News

B.C. conservation officer who refused to kill two bear cubs suspended without pay

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Some are calling the B.C. conversation officer who refused an order to kill two black bear cubs last weekend a local hero.

His employer, on the other hand, thinks differently.

Officer Bryce Casavant has been suspended without pay after he chose to tranquilize the cubs and take them to a veterinary hospital. Casavant was ordered to put down the cubs following the death of their mother, a nuisance bear who was killed for repeatedly ransacking a freezer in Port Hardy, B.C.

The cubs are brother and sister and estimated to be around eight weeks old, weighing somewhere between 20 and 25 pounds. The bears are healthy and are still nursing.

Casavant, along with a team of firefighters, was called to scene after the two cubs returned to the property looking for their mother. When Casavant arrived, the two cubs were hiding in a tree.

The cubs have since been relocated from the hospital to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington, B.C. Robin Campbell, the recovery centre’s manager, told the CBC that Casavant made the right decision.

“[The mother bear] was a problem, but these cubs did nothing,” Campbell said.

Although not all bear cubs can be rehabilitated back into the wild, Campbell says these bears should be able to because they were fearful of humans, which means they’re unlikely to disturb the public once they’re released.

“In 30 years, this is the first time we’ve ever had an issue like this,” Campbell said. “There has to be some kind of misunderstanding…hopefully somebody will come to their senses.”

As news of the Casavant’s suspension has spread across the local community and social media, an online petition has emerged asking for the Ministry of Environment Mary Polak to reinstate Casvant. So far, the petition has received more than 33,000 signatures.

In a statement Polak said of the incident, “this is a very sad and unfortunate situation.”

“Although conservation officers must sometimes put down wild animals for the safety of the public and the welfare of the animal, we understand how difficult it is for all involved.”