Morally Bankrupt & Psychopathic Bears? Really? Not to mention Vampire Flies. These are some of the things the British press says the ex-royal couple Harry and Meghan will face when living in Canada. I suspect the press is retaliating for the couple’s break with tradition while blaming media. Nevertheless, living in British Columbia, Canada, I feel it necessary to clarify the bear situation.
If bears are bankrupt right now, they are nutritionally bankrupt. Salmon stocks are severely depleted for a number of reasons, including the open-pen (in the ocean) fish farms allowed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, which have been shown to release parasites and disease into the wild salmon habitat. Supposedly this year they will require the fish farms to be contained.
The salmon are key species in Pacific Northwest ecosystems. In late fall, they return up the rivers to where they were spawned, they themselves spawn and then they die. Their journey and destination provide a feast for bears, eagles and other wildlife. Remains of the salmon in wildlife scat fertilize the great forests. Except the feast has dwindled.
In the fall of 2019, without much salmon, some bears did not develop the fat they need in order to hibernate. In some areas, drought reduced berries, another food for bears. So they can’t sleep and they go looking for food. Humans are handy for that.
As noted, scarcity of wild food is a factor. But so is human carelessness, leaving bear attractants within reach of wandering bears. Attractants include garbage, recycling, fruit fallen from trees and even bird feeders.
Even keeping food in your car or house may attract these bears. They’re not psychopathic, they’re just hungry. And they can learn how to open doors.
So who controls these bears? In British Columbia it is the Conservation Officers Service. COS is what I would call morally bankrupt and psychopathic. Why? Because for years now, COS has preferred execution to relocation, doing minimal work to educate humans who attract bears. And when the humans screw up the bears are shot.
COS is supposedly under the oversight of the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. This is somewhat confusing because it is the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources that issues hunting permits. George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, will tell you endlessly how our government takes protection of the environment very seriously, but he has yet to use his supposed oversight and act on the myriad complaints against COS.
It is said that COS recruits hunters. That makes sense as far as firearms and tracking, but the indifference and trophy-hunting attitudes need to go. Most recently, news reports have mentioned COS threatening people helping injured bears and officers transporting bears in a careless, even life-threatening manner.
In September 2019, the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre working with Raincoast Conservation, released a report pointing out both the needless killing and the lack of transparency and oversight. It recommends restriction of lethal force which currently is up to the discretion of the conservation officer and inclusion of conservation officers under the jurisdiction of the BC Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. The Ministry spokesperson reportedly said that was in the works but declined interviews. It was said to be in the works in 2018 too, and we have yet to see it. More deception?
Bryce Casavant is an ex-CO who refused to kill two orphaned bear cubs in 2015 and was then suspended.
Currently Casavant is a policy analyst with the conservation group Pacific Wild. He calls out the deception and “exaggeration” of the COS saying “B.C. is not a shooting gallery for government employees”. To improve oversight and transparency, Pacific Wild is now calling for COs to wear body cameras like police do.
But the pace of government is glacial. You can hasten it by emailing the following:
George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy: ENV.firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Zacharias, Deputy Minister: DM.ENV@gov.bc.ca
Doug Forsdick, Chief Conservation Officer: Doug.Forsdick@gov.bc.ca
David Airey, Deputy Chief Conservation Officer: David.Airey@gov.bc.ca
Don’t know what to say? Try this:
To Those Dictating British Columbia Conservation Officer Service Policy:
In this time when loss of biodiversity is becoming a grave threat to the planet, we don’t have time for inept government, indifference, and murderous attitude. As indicated by recent news reports, it is way past time to update the British Columbia Conservation Officer Service with restraint, transparency and true dedication to conservation. Implement this now with body cameras and an independent oversight organization.