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

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

A Shoppers Drug Mart employee in Vernon has tested positive for COVID-19, the company confirmed on Jan. 27, 2021. The last day the employee worked was Jan. 23. (K-J Millar - The Northern View)
COVID-19 case at Vernon Shoppers Drug Mart

Loblaws notes positive result on disclosure page

Okanagan Symphony Orchestra music director Rosemary Thomson in action at the podium. Photo by Lynda Miller.
Kelowna filmmaker gets funding to create new ‘Local Heroes’ documentary

The documentary will be focused on the director of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and Opera

Tom Ouchi is Respect Works Here’s Community Champion for January 2021. (Contributed)
Vernon Fire Rescue Services responded a structure fire on Valleyview Place Jan. 26, 2021, around 5 p.m. (Brendan Shykora - Vernon Morning Star)
Vernon firefighters knock down fully involved basement blaze

All occupants of the home got out safely but have been displaced, their home extensively damaged

Vernon Winter Carnival Cop John Fawcett, left, and Carnival director Paul Cousins sell raffle tickets for a 2019 Polaris Snowmobile, plus $1,000 worth of gear from BDM Motorsports.(Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Carnival ropes in fun amid Vernon’s winter/COVID blues

Plenty of virtual, and a few in-person, events planned for Feb. 5-14

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A rendering of the proposed “Aqua” resort in Kelowna’s Lower Mission area. (Contributed)
Towering waterfront resort planned in Kelowna

Mission Group’s ‘Aqua’ resort has been in the works for more than a decade

“My grandma always just said…making people smile is the most important thing,” says Nicholas Kruger. (Chehala Leonard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Entrepreneur Nicholas Kruger nominated as Okanagan community changemaker

With humour and knowledge, Nicholas Kruger says it’s important to give back

Worker at Swartz Bay terminal on Monday, January 20, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Former BC Ferries employee says he was fired because of race

Former employee Imraan Goondiwala alleges ‘white surpremacy’ in the make-up of BC Ferries’ workforce

Colton Jacob Thorsen. (Facebook)
Accused Osoyoos shooter to be tried by judge

Colton Jacob Thorsen is charged with attempted murder stemming from an October 2020 incident

Geoff Orr began building his dream home in the hills above Penticton over 14 years ago. The architect used recycled lumber from the old Super-Vale grocery store. (Floating Orb Productions / YouTube)
WATCH: Penticton man shows off dream home made from recycled lumber

A lot of the lumber used was taken from the demolished Super-Valu grocery store

Four cases of COVID have been reported in Merritt BC school communities so far in January 2021. (Photo THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Merritt schools report four cases of COVID

Attendance drops slightly as parents are notified

Granite Creek Quad Ranch offers guided tours for quading, hiking and snowmobiling. Photo RDOS
Coalmont to get unique subdivision

Special zoning allows for eight homes on Quad Ranch

Most Read