You can argue that it’s that Conservation Officers (COs) whose policies are outdated and controversial. You can debate that Minister of Environment Mary Polak and Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Steve Thompson aren’t putting enough funding in place. You can also state that municipalities and individual communities aren’t pushing hard enough for by-laws, enforcement and programs.
And in every case, you’d be right.
While the recent story of Bryce Casvant’s defiance of orders to kill two bear cubs has the world looking to Minister Polak for the quick fix to the wildlife problems, it is a massive and systemic issue that will require hard work, funding and patience from all parties involved.
In recent statements, the head of the BC Government Employees’ Union, Stephanie Smith, lamented that the calls for service to COs have increased by 70 per cent but the number of ‘boots on the ground’ COs have decreased by 32 per cent in the last decade.
Minister Polak and her senior staff have not responded appropriately – and in some cases, at all – to data that shows an unacceptable level of killing versus relocating or other non-lethal solutions of predators in the last several years.
The Vancouver Sun has reported that 1,872 black bears were killed in the last four years, while only 126 were relocated and 464 were hazed. Comments from the Ministry or the Conservation Officer management team were not offered in this article.
Despite all of this, however, there is an exception which is proving the rule.
The Pique News Magazine reported last week that in the town of Whistler, not a single black bear has been killed as a result of conflict this year.
"I'd like to say we're doing better as a community," CO Simon Gravel told The Pique. "We see less and less garbage left on the porch and people are monitoring the access to their windows and doors better, so there's an improvement there."
Very simply, the community is using well-known and acceptable non-lethal solutions to prevent conflict – and it’s working.
This leads to the obvious question on all of our minds: why isn’t it being done elsewhere?
The answer to that can be found at the beginning of this blog: everyone needs to buy in. Communities need to recognize, ask for, and enforce existing programs. COs need to put in the work and have the support of their managers and supervisors. And the province needs to make it a priority with funding and policy.
We can co-exist with bears and other wildlife in British Columbia. But only if we work together.
Sign our petition to put pressure on the Ministry to update their policies, funding structure and scientific offices to help move forward this agenda, and talk with your local CO and municipal representative about getting living with wildlife programs working in your community.
Work like our growing Living With Wildlife campaign is only possible with the support of monthly donors. Please consider become a monthly donor – for as little as $5 a month – and help us create a Canada that is truly fur-free.