Animal rights advocacy group ‘The Fur Bearers’ is appealing a B.C. Supreme Court decision ruling that conservation officers have the authority to destroy wild animals, and to use their discretion.
The Wildlife Act 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.’
Spokesperson Lesley Fox says there’s a grey area in the Wildlife Act, adding that if an animal doesn’t pose a risk to the public, they shouldn’t be destroyed.
“The judge at the end of last year alluded to policies, and that while he believes the conservation officers have a large scope in which they can kill animals, they still have to abide by policies. But we have some concerns because the Conservation Officer Service writes their own policies.”
Fox says this case stems from when a conservation officer killed an abandoned baby bear in Dawson Creek in 2016, even though there was a rehabilitation centre waiting to take the animal in to their care.
“We still have a lot of questions regarding the interpretation of Section 79 of the Wildlife Act.”
In a statement, the Ministry of Environment says no conservation officer relishes the thought of having to put down an animal and that euthanasia is a last resort.
Spokesperson David Karn says conservation officers are guided by provincial wildlife policy as well as their experience and expertise to make decisions in the field every day.
He adds the recent court decision affirms their understanding of the authorities granted to Conservation Officers under the Wildlife Act.
It concludes that because this matter is before the courts, it will not comment further.