New problem bear policy coming soon

Province working on new public safety guidelines for dealing with large carnivores interacting with humans

North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre manager Julie Mackey watches a bear cub emerge from hibernation on a closed-circuit television monitor. Two cubs sent to centre following a high-profile incident in Port Hardy last summer are expected to be released this spring.

A new provincial policy for dealing with problem bears is expected to be in place this spring.

But officials say it is not the byproduct of a high-profile incident in Port Hardy last summer where a conservation officer disobeyed orders when he refused to shoot two bear cubs along with their garbage-conditioned, human-habituated mother.

Bryce Casavant was suspended and later reassigned to a role outside the conservation service for defying orders, when he determined the cubs could be rehabilitated and sent them to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre near Parksville against the orders of his superiors.

“Prior to this incident, a review of the provincial procedure was already underway,” the ministry told Black Press in an email forwarded from its communications department.

The email states the policy — Preventing and Responding to Conflicts with Large Carnivores — is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Forests and the Conservation Officer Service.

“Committee members will update and define roles pertaining to agency mandates, define operational procedures and put forward recommendations for improvements,” the email states.

The ministry said the policy — a draft of which is not yet ready for the public — will continue to take into account public safety and the animal’s ability to survive in the wild.

“Any decision involving bear cubs is made on a case-by-case basis with professionals, including senior conservation officers, regional ministry biologists and the provincial wildlife veterinarian,” the email states.

The ministry also confirmed that it will be releasing the Port Hardy cubs — known as Jordan and Athena — back into the wild within the next few months.

It would not discuss the grievance Casavant lodged in order to get his job back, which is still subject to arbitration.


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