The number of bear-related calls has nearly doubled in B.C. this year compared to previous years.
The B.C. Conservation Officer Service has lost its sense of ethical and moral values. The service is not being held accountable to the general public and how the majority of people want our bears to be managed. They are on what seems to be a zero-tolerance killing spree. Mothers and newborn cubs are shot in the head because they are considered a nuisance. The truth is they are being killed just for eating human food sources.As executive director of the Get Bear Smart Society, I have been working on the issue of human-bear conflict resolution for over two decades and our organization played a significant and key role in creating the bear smart community program in B.C. That program addresses the root causes of conflict — bear attractants. That is and remains the primary goal: keep bears away from human food sources. No argument.That said, no community will ever be 100 per cent bear smart. There will always be people who don’t know better or just don’t care — and trust me, the bears will find those food sources. And there will always be years of natural food failures, habitat loss and other social issues within the bear community driving them into peopled areas.The Conservation Officer Service plays down its horrific killing practice by calling it euthanasia. By definition, animal euthanasia (euthanasia from Greek: εὐθανασία; “good death”) is the act of putting an animal to death for reasons that include incurable (and especially painful) conditions or diseases and terminal illness.Even their title is somewhat of a contradiction of terms: conservation officer. One would interpret that as an officer that conserves wildlife. Yet most officers are highly proficient hunters.The second tactic they use, and one that is commonly used in politics today, is the use of fear: create the perception the animal is so dangerous that it is their duty to protect public safety. The fact is that while bears may rarely cause injury and even death to people, the science shows that habituated bears are not really dangerous at all. In my experience, even so-called food-conditioned bears are not highly dangerous — all they want is your trash.So the Conservation Officer Service has enacted a system of capital punishment for animals foraging for their next meal. Not sure I see the justice there?The B.C. Conservation Officer Service cries “liability” all the time. The fact of the matter is that the conservation service has never been sued and furthermore the Wildlife Act makes it illegal to sue them.There are many methods that the Conservation Officer Service can use to deter bears from peopled areas including the use of bear dogs, passive deterrents and non-lethal bear aversion. Translocation can also work with some bears. Of course, all of these methods take time and resources. It is far cheaper and quicker to shoot a bear in the head and dispose of the carcass at the landfill.So, here’s my advice to conservation officers. Lay your ego aside. Put the gun down. Get your head out of the sand. Think for yourself. And think about what you are doing. The system clearly needs to change. Killing bears doesn’t work. It is a short-term fix that gets you home on time. That’s it! There will always be another bear to fill the vacant habitat niche.To the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, I say uphold the Vision for the Conservation Officer Service: “to be a progressive and respected leader in environmental compliance and enforcement, shared stewardship and public safety.” Respect is not earned by killing innocent cubs! And being progressive doesn’t mean using antiquated methods. Period.If you think it’s not possible, have a look at what Steve Searles is doing in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. One man. Many so-called habituated and food-conditioned bears. Many non-compliant residents and visitors. Yet, nonetheless, he keeps bears and people safe. And all this in the land where people sue at the drop of a hat. So, you can give up the “liability” card, too.Closer to home, ex-conservation officer Dan LeGrandeur started his own company called Bear Scare after leaving the service. Their focus is on non-lethal bear management and in the past three years, they attended over 21,000 bear occurrences and only one bear was removed.Do what is right! Animals have the right to a life free from suffering and unnecessary killing. Take advantage of the provincial legislation and fine residents who leave out attractants and are non-compliant. Don’t shoot the bear and make their problem go away so that a new bear can come in and get shot too.If you, as a B.C. resident, agree that the killing must stop, contact the elected officials the Conservation Officer Service reports to: the Honourable George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, email@example.com, and who he reports to: Premier John Horgan, firstname.lastname@example.org. We need to let elected officials know that we want bears protected and not shot for eating our trash. Speak on the bear’s behalf and contain your trash.The Get Bear Smart Society’s goal is to minimize the number of bears killed as a result of human-caused problems. Signed by the entire board of directors: Sylvia Dolson (executive director, Get Bear Smart Society), Ainslie Willock (animal welfare advocate), Wayne McCrory, R.P.Bio. (bear biologist), Ellie Lamb (bear viewing guide and bear behaviour specialist/expert) and Dan LeGrandeur (ex-conservation officer, owner/manager BearScare). Learn more at bearsmart.com.Letters to the editor should be sent to email@example.com. The editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.CLICK HERE to report a typo.Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email email@example.com.