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Animal rights group hopes to appeal decision against judicial review of Wildlife Act

Black bears have been spotted numerous times on the Mission Creek Greenway in Kelowna this summer.
Black bears have been spotted numerous times on the Mission Creek Greenway in Kelowna this summer. Courtesy Brenda Martinson/ Global Okanagan

The fight is not over.

A year after the shooting of a baby bear, that’s what a group of animal advocates says after losing an attempt in court for a judicial review of the Wildlife Act.

The Fur-Bearers spokesperson, Lesley Fox, says the group is raising questions about Section 79, which states, “An officer may kill an animal, other than a domestic animal, that is at large and is likely to harm persons, property, wildlife or wildlife habitat.”

Fox says while the group understands that a conservation officer has the authority to euthanize an animal if it poses a threat to public safety, they’re raising the question – what about when the animal is not posing a threat?

She explains, for example, an orphaned cub that was killed in Dawson Creek by a conservation officer last year because it was found to be malnourished, even while a rehabilitation centre was waiting to take it in.

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“If lethal action isn’t necessary, and we argue specifically in this case with the little cub, there shouldn’t be lethal action and in fact, it should be the opposite. That every effort should be made to get these animals into care, to be evaluated by experts.”

READ MORE: Neighbourhood series: Being bear aware in the Tri Cities

“Certainly having an animal examined by an expert, or a veterinarian, who specializes in wildlife is a huge asset and let them determine whether or not it’s appropriate to rehab this animal. I think that decision needs to be taken out of the conservation officer service, and I think there needs to be sort of an independent third party expert or specialist.”

She says those wild animals should have every opportunity to be rehabbed and released back into the wild.

Fox says they’re investigating how to appeal the decision.

In a statement, the Ministry of Environment says that a conservation officer does not relish the thought of putting an animal down –  and that euthanization is a last resort.

It says conservation officers are guided by provincial wildlife policy, as well as their experience and expertise, to make decisions in the field every day; it adds the court decision affirms its understanding of the authorities granted to them under the Wildlife Act.

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