Conservation officer who refused to kill bear cubs back on payroll
A B.C. conservation officer suspended without pay for not euthanizing two five-month-old bear cubs is back on the payroll following widespread public outrage.
The province’s Government and Service Employees’ Union confirmed Wednesday that Bryce Casavant is being paid once again, but the officer remains suspended pending the outcome of a government investigation into the incident.
The reversal came after a petition supporting Casavant started circulating online, gathering nearly 50,000 signatures. Actor Ricky Gervais also brought the incident into the international spotlight with a tweet Tuesday evening.
“Bryce Casavant, conservation officer, suspended for refusing to kill bear cubs,” wrote Gervais, who has more than 9 million followers. “Reinstate this honourable man.”
Casavant was suspended for his response to an incident on Vancouver Island over the weekend, when the cubs' mother was caught eating salmon from a freezer at a property near Port Hardy.
The sow was destroyed, but Casavant refused an order to euthanize its young cubs.
On Wednesday, the Conservation Officer Service held a press conference to stress that the decision to euthanize wildlife is never taken lightly.
“It’s always a very difficult situation. It’s a situation that no conservation officer wants to be in,” said Chris Doyle, acting deputy for provincial operations.
“Obviously the preference is to keep the bears alive and wild and to prevent conflicts from happening in the first place.”
Doyle said senior Ministry of Environment staff, biologists and wildlife veterinarians together determine how to deal with orphan cubs using a number of assessment tools, including the animals’ health, the level of habituation, and the level of food conditioning.
Doyle said he couldn’t provide any details on Casavant’s suspension, including who was responsible or what the reasons were, but said there were concerns the bears he saved could have been a problem.
“The initial information is that the bears were exposed to conflict, they had some level of habituation and food conditioning,” he said.
“We’re investigating the circumstances of that situation and all the actions that took place and I’m not going to comment further on the personnel issue.”
Rather than kill the cubs, Casavant brought them to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association, a rehabilitation facility that regularly takes in bears and releases them back into the wild.
On Tuesday, the facility’s founder Robin Campbell defended Casavant and called his suspension “unbelievable.”
“He’s a family guy and they suspend him without pay,” he said.
The rescued cubs show no apparent signs of habituation and could be released next summer, Campbell added.
Doyle said the public can help prevent conservation officers from having to kill bears and other wildlife by being responsible and managing the garbage and other attractants on their properties.
For more information on reducing conflict being humans and wildlife, visit the Wild Safe B.C. website.
Bryce Casavant, conservation officer, suspended for refusing to kill bear cubs http://t.co/E6AKvu6Kyd Reinstate this honourable man.— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) July 8, 2015