UPDATE: Conservation officer who refused to euthanize bear cubs removed from service
WATCH: Orphaned bears settle into North Island Wildlife Recovery Association
UPDATE: Aug. 28 – Bryce Casavant learned he has been removed from the Conservation Officer Service this week.
Casavant was originally suspended in July when he determined two bear cubs near Port Hardy should not be killed.
“Our union has filed a grievance over Bryce Casavant’s original suspension. We are now in the process of filing a second grievance concerning his disciplinary transfer from the Conservation Officer Service,” says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. “Bryce Casavant was following clear procedures when he decided to save these young bears. We will pursue these issues to an arbitration hearing and ask an independent decision maker to find there was no just cause for the employer’s actions.”
“Casavant should not have been suspended, and he should not be transferred from his job as a Conservation Officer,” adds Smith. “He has a distinguished record of public service in law enforcement. Bryce Casavant did the right thing when he decided these young bears should be assessed for rehabilitation.”
She adds that they are surprised and disappointed by the move.
The BCGEU will schedule an arbitration hearing as soon as possible.
Previous story from July 8:
A conservation officer has been suspended after allegedly refusing to euthanize two orphaned bear cubs in Port Hardy.
It has been reported Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant was suspended without pay pending a performance investigation, after refusing to put down the bear cubs this weekend.
North Island Gazette reports Casavant and members of the Port Hardy Fire Department rescued the cubs, who were stuck on a tree after their mother was shot after breaking into a freezer inside a mobile home.
The two cubs were sent to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association, where they are currently being taken care of.
The Ministry of Environment that’s in charge of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service would not confirm the officer’s name or suspension terms to Global News.
“This is a very sad and unfortunate situation with the mother bear and her cubs near Port Hardy,” said the ministry in a statement. “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. Our Conservation Officers provide the highest level of public safety and natural resource law enforcement service possible. These very difficult decisions for animal relocation suitability are made by professionals including senior wildlife biologists and the provincial wildlife veterinarian, along with conservation officers. The Conservation Officer Service is investigating this situation, including the actions of its members. We will share more information about the status and welfare of the cubs as it becomes available.”
An online petition has been launched to re-instate the conservation officer, collecting more than 46,000 signatures by Wednesday morning. There is also an online fundraising campaign to support the care of the cubs.
Julie Mackie with the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association says the two cubs, who are believed to be about five months old and 30 pounds in weight, are doing well and have already been introduced to two other cubs at the shelter.
“They are showing all the good behavior that we want to see,” says Mackie. “They are scared if we go anywhere near the pan. They are not showing any friendliness or interest in being near people.”
Mackie says there has been a lot of confusion over whether the cubs were also seen breaking into freezers for food.
She says speaking with home owners in the area, it does not appear to be the case.
“We hope they will remain here until next summer for release,” says Mackie. “They will do really well here if they are allowed to stay.”
WATCH: Bear cubs rescued from tree in Port Hardy. Courtesy: North Island Gazette.
How is decision to euthanize a bear cub made in B.C.?
Acting deputy chief for the provincial operation for the B.C. Conservation Office Chris Doyle spoke with media this morning and said conservation officers, senior ministry staff biologists and wildlife veterinarians determine how orphaned bear cubs are dealt with and use various assessment tools including the health and condition of the animals themselves as well as the level of habitation, food conditioning as well as the age of these cubs to determine what can happen with those cubs.
“Conservation officers do take suitable candidates to orphan rehabilitation facilities,” says Doyle. “They may undergo further assessment there before a decision is made on what happens to those animals.”
Doyle says the preference is always to keep the bears alive and to prevent conflict from happening in first place. “So communities, businesses and residents need to do their part to keep bears wild by managing attractants. These types of conflicts are preventable,” he adds.
Doyle says sometimes an assessment can be done at the field or at a facility.
“We do it in consultation with the provincial wildlife veterinarians as well as provincial wildlife biologists. At times, even local veterinarians may get involved if the animal appears to be injured or in poor health,” he says.
Doyle says the cubs are currently being assessed, but the initial information is that the bears were exposed to conflict and had some level of habituation and food conditioning.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark also addressed the situation today, saying it is tough for conservation officers to make these kinds of decisions.
“My heart goes out to think those two baby bears might have been shot, as an ordinary citizen,” said the Premier. “But the decision about how this would be managed will be made by the conservation officer’s corps, not by politicians.”