Wildlife advocates are calling for more oversight of the B.C. Conservation Officer Society after unearthing data showing officers killed 77 bear cubs across the province for various reasons last year.
The information was released to a B.C. resident who shared it with the animal rights group the Fur-Bearers, prompting the it to lodge a formal complaint with the ministry of environment.
Ellie Lamb, a North Vancouver bear guide and advocate, has poured over the documents and believes they’re filled with examples of situations where cubs could have been rehabilitated, rather than killed.
She pointed to one case detailed in the documents near Terrace where officers shot a young cub found abandoned on the side of the road.
“They should be considering most importantly the public safety … there is nothing unsafe about a four-pound cub looking for help,” she said.
“Members that we as the public support killed this cub when it was likely reaching out to get a hand, and could have been taken to (the) Critter Care or to Northern Lights (rescue centres) for rehabilitation, instead he shot it on the side of the road.”
B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman said that conservation officers makes a priority of trying to relocate bears when possible.
“But when animals are habituated to human sources of food, whether it is as an adult or a cub, then there is a risk to human communities. conservation officers have to make these decisions on the ground,” he said.
“The bottom line is the best way to protect animals from being killed because they’re habituated to human food is to control their attractants.”
But Lamb and the Fur-Bearers say they want to see third party oversight of the Conservation Officer Service.
Lamb suggested since BCCOS officers are peace officers, they should be governed by a board the way police departments are.
“There is no accountability,” she said. “What I am seeing and what many people in the public have witnessed is crimes against these animals, crimes against nature.”