Wildlife group wants body cams on B.C. conservation officers after 4,300 bears killed in 8 years

B.C.’s conservation officers have killed roughly 4,300 black bears and 160 grizzly bears since 2011

An environmental group is sounding the alarm over the number of bears and cougars killed by the B.C. Conservative Officer Service in recent years and calling for the province to outfit officers with body cameras while on the job.

B.C.’s conservation officers have killed roughly 4,300 black bears and 160 grizzly bears since 2011, according to provincial data. Roughly 780 cougars have also been killed.

In an open letter to Environment Minister George Heyman, Pacific Wild said it wants to see greater independent oversight of the actions by conservation officers, including the implementation of cameras by April 1.

“The current kill statistics are alarming and do not reflect the modern-day values of British Columbians,” the group’s executive director Ian McAllister said in a news release. “To provide transparency, ensure public trust and to protect the integrity of conservation officers, we are calling on the minister to make body-cameras mandatory and independent oversight a top priority for 2020.”

ALSO READ: Out on patrol with the BC COS

The open letter comes after the ministry released findings from an audit which looked at bear attractants in efforts to reduce human-wildlife conflicts in the province. The audit, which reviewed bear activity in the summer and fall of 2019 and resulted in more than 700 inspections, 75 warnings, and 355 orders for property owners to remove bear attractants.

At the time, Heyman said in a statement that “not a single conservation officer relishes the thought of having to put down an animal, which is always a last resort for public safety.”

But Bryce Casavant, a policy analyst with Pacific Wild and former conservation officer, said in a statement that he disagrees with Heyman, calling it “unreasonable to believe that, including juvenile bear cubs, over 4,000 black bears were killed ‘as a last resort.’”

ALSO READ: B.C. bear feeding crackdown finds hundreds of human offenders

In addition to body cameras, Pacific Wild is calling for the agency to suspend its use of ministerial communications and for the agency to be under regular independent review.

In an emailed statement to Black Press Media, the ministry said that public safety is the top priority when an officer deals with a wildlife conflict.

“Bears and cubs that have lost their fear of people, or are conditioned to human food sources, are not good candidates for relocation or rehabilitation, as they can be far too dangerous,” the statement reads.

The ministry did not say whether it is considering the use of body cameras but said that education is the best way to prevent wildlife conflicts and that it will complete another set of attractant audits in the spring.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kelowna taxpayers could pay $90K for losses caused by cancelled Memorial Cup

$135,000 would be put aside for a potential bid for a future opportunity to host the tournament

Predator mutilated cats in Kelowna: BC SPCA

The BC SPCA confirmed a mutilated cat was killed by a predator

Emergency crews conduct CPR on unresponsive person in Okanagan Lake

West Kelowna emergency crews are on scene at the shores of Jubilee Mobile Home Park

Kelowna woman’s dog attacked by unlicensed pit bull: RDCO

Kelowna resident Yuli Lavigne shared a social media post detailing the attack on her dog

B.C. appeals judge’s decision to leave three clubhouses in Hells Angels hands

The province has filed two notices of appeal related to the B.C. Supreme Court decision

B.C. identifies 20 new COVID-19 cases, travellers specified in count

Pandemic total 3,028 cases, 51 people from outside Canada

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Motorcycle rider seriously injured in collision with vehicle on Highway 97 west of Pritchard

Chase RCMP report that motorcycle was attempting to pass when crash occurred

LETTER: Former Summerland mayors speak out on solar project

Five former Summerland mayors sign name to short letter

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

$500 fine for Vernon man caught near Coldstream playground

Richard Slobodian, 58, served one night in jail and ordered to pay for breaching probation

Summerland Museum reopens

Museum to open on July 15 with reduced operating hours

House arrest for Vernon physiotherapist guilty of sexual assault

Stephen Witvoet to serve 18-month conditional sentencing following July 8 hearing

Most Read