‘Officer did the right thing,’ says local bear rehabilitation expert

Cubs are good candidates for release, said Gail Martin, of Langley's Critter Care rehab centre which is hosting its open house this weekend

B.C. conservation officer Bryce Casavant was suspended without pay for refusing to kill two black bear cubs, which he has since named Jordan and Athena. The cubs are at  a rehab centre on Vancouver Island and public outrage over the incident has forced the government reinstate the officer’s pay.

B.C. conservation officer Bryce Casavant was suspended without pay for refusing to kill two black bear cubs, which he has since named Jordan and Athena. The cubs are at a rehab centre on Vancouver Island and public outrage over the incident has forced the government reinstate the officer’s pay.

Monique Tamminga

Times Reporter

Langley’s own bear rehabilitation expert Gail Martin, founder of Critter Care, commends the conservation officer who refused to kill two bear cubs in Port Hardy.

“The conservation officer did the right thing,” said Martin. “Finally someone stood up to the government and said no to what they knew wasn’t right.”

The B.C. conservation officer was suspended without pay for failing to euthanize a pair of five-month-old cubs in Port Hardy, at the north end of Vancouver Island.

Their mother had been killed after repeatedly breaking into a freezer containing meat and salmon.

The bears came looking for their mom and that’s when Bryce Casavant refused the order he was given to shoot and kill the cubs.

Instead, he brought them to North Island Wildlife Recovery Association, a rehabilitation facility that takes in cubs and releases them back into the wild when they are ready.

Critter Care Wildlife Rehabilitation Society has been taking in rescued and orphaned cubs for years and releasing them back into the wild.

They currently have six in their care and just released nine back to the wild in June.

Critter Care is holding its annual open houses this weekend from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. providing tours to see the various wild animals in their care. It’s the only time the centre opens to the public.

“Bear cubs absolutely can still go wild when they are that young and they are always released far away from human populations,” said Martin.

The public was outraged by the Ministry of Environment’s decision to suspend the officer without pay and so far more than 55,000 have signed a petition to reinstate him.

Even English celebrity Ricky Gervais weighed in on the controversy in a post on Twitter.

Langley MLA Mary Polak is minister of environment. She was calling the situation unfortunate but refused to comment on personnel matters.

As of Wednesday, Casavant was still suspended, but  with pay.

His union is filing a grievance.

Martin said the problem is conservation officers who are out in the field and know best about the situation in front of them, aren’t allowed to make the decisions.

“Someone behind a desk in an office made that decision to have the cubs euthanized,” she said. “That’s where change needs to happen. We have to give conservation officers the right to make the decisions.