Bear cub rescuer cleared as BC Conservation considers changes
ANMORE, B.C. -- A Metro Vancouver retiree who had been under investigation by the BC Conservation Officer Service for taking an emaciated bear cub to a local wildlife centre will not face fines or jail time for his actions.
Anmore resident Mike Robson had taken the tiny cub, which was huddled under his neighbour's patio table, to the Critter Care Wildlife Society in Langley after he said conservation officers had refused to look into his wife's report about the bear. Robson also said officers appeared to be in no hurry to help the animal, which weighed only 20 pounds and appeared to be alone with no food source.
"I want to thank the public for all the messages they sent to government and all the support they gave us," said Robson, crediting the media attention and barrage of criticism against the conservation service for the swift end to the investigation.
"The COS has determined that no enforcement action will be taken against people who were clearly acting with good intentions," confirmed the BC Conservation Officer Service in an email statement to CTV News.
CTV News was there on Jan. 9 when Robson was surprised to see a conservation officer pull up to his home in the forested community of Anmore, north of Port Moody, around 11 a.m. He told the responding officer that he didn’t think anyone was coming to tend to the cub, so he took it to the wildlife centre, fearing it would starve or freeze in sub-zero temperatures. Robson was also concerned the cub would be one of many bears euthanized or taken to the woods to die if conservation officers showed up to deal with it.
The BC Conservation Officer Service acknowledged it should have done more to tell Robson they intended to assess the bear, writing "…clear communications and a thoughtful approach to the people who care about wildlife is critical in achieving positive results."
The officer on scene and the email statement both reiterated the risk of human habituation should people intervene too soon with wildlife, noting cubs sometimes wander away from their mother or their den and can make their way back if left alone. Sometimes "rescuing" a cub actually results in separating it from its family and officials advise leaving cubs for 24 to 48 hours before they determine what to do.
The cub is now with Critter Care in Langley, where caretakers are tending to the cub along with 27 other orphaned cubs. Senior animal care technician Nathan Wagstaffe said the cub should be between 70 and 80 pounds. He believes it was orphaned earlier last year and has been barely surviving since then.
"His heart was definitely in the right place but unfortunately his actions were not," Wagstaffe said last Thursday of Robson’s delivery of the cub to them rather than allowing a conservation officer to assess and retrieve the cub. "We have to follow protocols the way they are. We can't have the general public just picking up orphan bear cubs."
Knowing the cub will be under Critter Care’s supervision and stewardship for up to a year is a relief to Robson, who appreciates the end to the investigation into his actions, but is also wary of what comes next.
"(Dep. Chief Conservation Officer) Chris Doyle commented that the story had taken a life of its own and he was shocked at how many angry people were contacting the conservation service and said they were going to have a meeting about it with the staff to review what happened and see where mistakes were made and try to do better the next time," said Robson.
"But I didn’t feel his heart was in changing things in the future -- I didn’t think it’s systemic change for the way conservation treats animals. It was more about how to avoid bad press."