The Conservation Officer Service has stuck to their guns on why they kill so many bears in British Columbia. Let’s look at their messaging and compare it to the bare facts.
“Conservation officers… they have no interest in destroying wildlife — that’s the last thing they want to do,” COS Inspector Murray Smith told the Daily Hive Vancouver this week. It’s consistent with what the Conservation Officer Service has said all summer, while killing 249 black bears through July (latest available data set).
How often are black bears killed?
As revealed in the Daily Hive article, the COS issued a total of 12 tickets and fines between January to June 10, 2019. In just April and May 2019, the COS killed 113 black bears. In the available statistics from April 2019 to July 2019, the Conservation Officer Service “attended” 1,219 black bear calls, killing 249 bears, translocating three bears, hazing 54 (times or bears, it isn’t clear which), and sending 31 cubs to rehab.
That means that on average, when a Conservation Officer attended a black bear scene from April to June, the bear(s) were:
- Killed 20% of the time
- Hazed 4% of the time
- Translocated 0.24% of the time
What are the facts?
Here are some other facts that may be of relevance when considering COS messaging:
- The Conservation Officer Service attended more than 500 black bear calls between April and May 2019 (not including June) and from January to June 10, 2019, issued 12 tickets and fines.
- Former CO Bryce Casavant was ordered to, then disciplined for refusing to, kill two black bear cubs who were candidates for rehabilitation (and were successfully rehabilitated) in 2015.
- CO Micah Kneller killed a black bear cub who had a spot and transportation available for rehabilitation in 2016. A complaint was filed, and the investigation was completed internally by Conservation Officer Service.
- In 2018 a bear fell from a tree and broke her neck when shot with tranquilizers by conservation officers who did not put in place any kind of netting or barrier at the base of the tree.
- The “Level of Conflict/Bear Behaviour” matrix used by the COS does not recommend killing for many publicly identified instances (including one situation that shows a bear family actively trying to escape COS and people).
- Government documents showed that in 2018 a full 70% of Conservation Officers (75 of 106 mainly uniform and patrol officers) had hunting records and 48 specifically purchased hunting licenses the previous year. Additionally, four officers applied for limited-entry grizzly bear hunts (now banned).
- All complaints about the actions of conservation officers are reviewed internally by the conservation officer service. Unlike most other armed law enforcement agencies, they have no third party oversight.
- The Ministry of Environment and COS leadership have failed repeatedly to reply to the question of whom is ultimately responsible for attractant and bear-related law enforcement (the COS has stated they aren’t, but haven’t suggested that municipalities are solely responsible, nor have they explained how funding and resources required by municipalities would achieve this).
The COS says they don’t want to kill bears. But when the facts are added up, the veneer of a public relations message melts away and only the truth remains.
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