It’s time for British Columbia’s media to start challenging the status quo statements by government agents when they kill wildlife.
The facts tend to follow a theme: a bear is considered ‘habituated’ by the BC Conservation Officer Service, who then kill the bear. In media interviews, it is reported that failure to manage attractants by the public is the cause. Statistics showing the number of deaths per year, or number of calls, are sometimes handed out.
However, rarely do media ask – or at least report that they did ask – vital questions about the incident. Questions we immediately ask in response to these news items include:
- What actions did officers take from the time of the first call to the time of killing the bear? Were aversive conditioning tools deployed?
- It’s illegal to feed bears or leave accessible foods that will attract bears in British Columbia (section 33.1 of the Wildlife Act) and the BCCOS have the ability to issue fines and orders related to this. Were any fines or orders issued prior to the killing of the bear?
- If a bear is so heavily ‘food conditioned’ or ‘habituated’ that it warrants killing them, does it not warrant enforcement action upon those who were allegedly responsible?
- If the BCCOS is unable to identify those who have fed (or allowed a bear to be fed through attractants) to a degree that warrants lethal action, should an investigation not be prioritized?
- Are any local or municipal bylaws in place related to attractant management, and if so, have any of those bylaws been enforced? Has the municipality or regional district discussed attractant management and waste management practices?
- What other actions are being taken to prevent a recurrence?
When these questions are not posed by journalists, government agencies may not be held to account.
“The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press.”
Our communities – including non-human animals and the environment – are stronger when journalism challenges the status quo.