Open Letter: Wild animals do not belong in classrooms

Young moose in the forest. johan10 / Getty Images

June 2, 2022 Update: The Fur-Bearers has heard from the Saskatchewan Conservation Officer Service who confirmed the young moose has been released back into the wild. We have also communicated with the school division. Everyone involved agrees that while this incident may have been well-intentioned, it was an inappropriate way to teach children about wildlife. We are satisfied with the response and that this young moose is now back in their natural environment.

Dear Honourable Warren Kaeding, Minister of Environment,

CC: Quintin M. Robertson, Director of Education/CEO, Good Spirit School Division 204

It is with deep concern to hear that a wild animal was brought to a school classroom by a Saskatchewan Conservation Officer. We received confirmation from the Good Spirit School Division that a young moose was taken to an elementary school on the week of May 16-20. Although we believe that wild animal education is critical for children, bringing wild animals as show-and-tell to classrooms is the wrong way to do this and teaches all the wrong lessons.

Wild animals are not objects that should be paraded around, cuddled, petted, or in the case of Hollywood the moose, used for selfies. Wildlife belong in their natural environments or in wildlife rehab centers if they are being rehabilitated. For a conservation officer to bring a young animal into a school classroom goes against the ministry’s mandate of protecting wild animals.

The ownership of wildlife in Saskatchewan is, in care of public trust, vested in the Crown under section 23 of the Wildlife Act. It is highly inappropriate for a conservation officer to exercise the property rights of the Saskatchewan Government by using a wild animal as a prop in a school classroom. This is a misuse of authorities entrusted to conservation officers; the health and welfare of animals should be prioritized and not undermined by acts such as this.

This young moose was likely stressed and terrified from being captured, transported, and brought to a disorienting environment like an elementary school classroom. Baby animals that have been heavily exposed to humans have little to no chance of being successfully reintroduced into the wild. We are concerned about the whereabouts of this young moose and what happened after this incident.

Not only does this irresponsible act put both children and wildlife at risk by potentially exposing them to diseases and parasites, it also sends a wrong message to children about how we should be treating wildlife. For the safety of both wildlife and humans, we need to keep our distance from wild animals – teaching children that it’s okay to pet wild animals and get close to them is extremely problematic, let alone unethical. The lesson needs to be ‘hands-off wildlife’. There are far more effective, safer, humane, and ethical ways to teach children about wildlife.

We are urging the Ministry of Environment to adopt a policy and order that Saskatchewan’s Conservation Officers are prohibited from using wildlife as props in classrooms and work with school districts to develop education programs that respect wildlife instead of exploiting them. Children and wild animals deserve better.
 

Sincerely,

Lesley Fox, Executive Director, The Fur-Bearers

 

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Established in 1953, The Fur-Bearers is a charitable, non-partisan organization whose goals are to end the commercial fur trade and promote solutions for wildlife coexistence in communities. Your donation is tax-deductible. Charitable registration number: 130006125RR0002

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