EDITORIAL: Don’t blame the Conservation Officer Service, Squamish

Every time a bear is killed by conservation officers in the Sea to Sky Corridor public anger erupts.

Recently a mother and two cubs were destroyed in Furry Creek.

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Posts cascade under such stories with comments such as “Don’t call conservation officers.” Other commentators suggest that local officers are “trigger happy.”

Not only is this an extremely negative lens to look at these officers who live and work in our community, but it is also a load of poppycock.

The truth is these officers are protecting those of us too ignorant to keep the bears at a safe distance.

In May, 3,094 calls came in to B.C. conservation officers. (467 calls came into the RAPP hotline in Squamish in 2018.)

Officers destroyed 97 black bears across the province in May, according to the monthly Conservation Officer Service’s Predator Statistics. 

Other agencies killed another 14, for a total of 111 bears put down.

 One bear was moved to another area,  22 were hazed (meaning non-lethal deterrents were used to move the bear out of an area or to discourage an undesirable activity) and five cubs were sent to a rehab facility.

That means, three per cent of the time people called the conservation phone line, a bear ended up dead.

Not exactly trigger happy.

But of course, bear deaths should anger us.

Other than in 2017 when  99 black bears were put to death, this May saw the most such killings in that month in the last eight years. That is really sad.

But we need to blame ourselves,  not conservation officers.

“The COS has the unenviable position of having to remove bears that have lost their fear of people and are conditioned to non-natural foods. It is the public’s responsibility to ensure that attractants are secured in bear-proof structures,” the B.C. Conservation Officer Service told The Chief.

“Public safety is paramount. The COS assesses complaints to determine the public safety risk, level of food conditioning, level of human habituation and the overall condition and behaviour of conflict-animals involved. With this information, Conservation officers must act decisively to protect the public and minimize the suffering of injured animals. The COS has considerable data, detailed procedures and protocols to ensure it is making the correct decisions. The conservation officers in the field will routinely engage with wildlife veterinarians, wildlife biologists and other experts when the situation allows.”

And while the conservation officers do what they can to not use lethal force, imagine the uproar if the bears in Furry Creek, for example, had accessed a home and hurt someone? Public outrage would quickly have pivoted to “Why wasn’t something done about this problem bear?”

Conservation officers can’t win the way things are. Neither can the bears.

This is not rocket science. Corridor residents’ refusal to lock up trash and get rid of attractants like fruit trees is causing bears to get killed.

Stop it.

Enough is enough.

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