Animal conservation should protect animals not kill them

Aug 21, 2020 | Blog, Environment, Governance | 4 comments

Wildlife Management: B.C. Style

Cartoon used with the permission of Raeside.

The wildlife act should protect animals in British Columbia. Far too often incidents involving the conservation service end with the death of animals. For example many incidents we hear about involving bears could have been avoided all together if there was a much greater focus on preventing human/animal interactions by enforcing wildlife laws that require humans to contain and secure attractants. 

Bears are always searching for food sources to fatten them up for winter hibernation. As a result they have a powerful memory of where they found food in the past and are vulnerable to quickly becoming habituated to food sources that humans leave unguarded – including our gardens, orchards and garbage.

Knowing this we have written laws requiring gardens and orchards to be fenced and garbage cans to be locked. With the rise of social media and the thought that capturing an image of an animal in close proximity could go viral, the bears need the conservation service more now than ever to enforce the laws against humans intentionally baiting wild animals.

This month we have seen a couple of examples of bear baiting and it’s the bears who are paying the price. First Global TV reported that a black bear was baited in the lower mainland and then again just few days ago we learned of another bear potentially facing similar treatment at Botanical Beach in Juan de Fuca.

The provincial conservation service caught and euthanized the bear in the lower mainland, while at Botanical Beach they have set a trap to capture the bear that’s lived and foraged in the area for some time. Let’s hope the public attention on this story spares the bear on the beach from meeting a similar demise as the one in Vancouver.

The wildlife act has provisions that require humans to reduce animal attractants such as gardens, fruit trees and garbage cans. What is tragic is that the conservation service is not enforcing those laws and animals such as bears are deemed to be nuisances and threats – even in their natural environment. All to often they are captured and killed.

I have heard the heartbreak of many British Columbians regarding animal welfare in our province. They have expressed their deep frustration to me that their pleas for action have been ignored by MLA’s, the Ministry of Environment and the conservation service for years.

Frankly, British Columbians across the province are exhausted in their effort to draw attention to this awful situation. We need the leadership of the provincial government to change the approach of the conservation service to ensure they are enforcing laws that protect animals from human behaviour, and that animals are not dying while under the care of the service that is supposed to protect them. 

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

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  1. Ann Strother

    Keep on with that people reeducation so our wildlife doesn,t get killed! Esp. Garbagecand the crazy idea that feeding wild animals is cute! (And goid for them).

  2. Jefferson Bray

    Exemptions written into the BC Wildlife Act (see Section 33.1 & Farm Act) that are responsible for Gov’t manufactured ‘population sinks’. Example: Bella Coola Valley, sixteen (16 minimum reported) grizzly bears (10 by COS; 6 Residents – Moms, cubs, subadults, etc.) executed within five months of 2019. And the one lousy road in and out was littered with grizzly cherry pit filled scat, and later green applesauce scat…as COS just drove by. Like they have done for decades….
    CO – “Farms, yeah that’s a tough one.”

    ‘Attractant’ law(s) is corrupt; everyone employed within Gov’t knows; and they’ve done nothing internally to amend/rectify their abusive ‘system’. When archaic policy is amended to change the emphasis from destructive, reactive focus on consciously “baited” bear behaviour to proactive focus on apathetic, unaccountable, entitled human behaviour, then there will be less ‘conflict’. Until then, Gov’t FLNRO/MOE/COS ‘public safety’ is a spin-doctored lie. Bears don’t require ‘enforcement’ agencies.

    An old friend once said, “I don’t know everything about bears but, I do know one thing, it’s not bears that are the problem, it’s people.” His name was Charlie Russell.

    Thank you for your leadership Mr. Olsen.

  3. Sandy Martin

    Bravo Adam Olsen!
    Wildlife management in BC (and in so many other parts of our country and elsewhere in the world) has always set up such a tremendous imbalance, just as the cartoon in this article so aptly depicts. Thank you for paying attention to the many, many voices who have been pleading with government for decades to design programs that are sustainable with the focus on the needs of the animals and not on the needs/wants of human enterprise. Our governments need to pay close attention to the experts in wildlife ecosystems and behaviours and less attention to people who want particular animals ‘looked after’ and others ‘gotten rid of’.

    And, for god’s sake people, secure your garbage so that it does not attract wildlife to your neighbourhoods! It’s not rocket science! Governments should also have the chutzpah to implement big fines for those individuals who do not safely secure their garbage.

    Thank you Adam Olsen. Please keep this important issue in the forefront with our municipal, provincial and federal governments. It’s time our province/country got out of the dark ages regarding wildlife management. It makes one think that ‘human management’ might be a more successful route to go in creating and sustaining the sharing of our lands with animals.

    Sandy Martin

  4. Gerry Taylor

    It seems everyone has a spin on bears! Here’s mine. Wild creatures mostly do fine in nature but when human activities intervene there are consequences, some good, some bad. In the case of us being in their domain we need to apply caution. So far nothing much new. However, when the public creates garbage dumps, leaves fruit on trees and does not secure residential garbage containers then some people step away from some of the obvious realities. Bears are potentially dangerous and, in the case of humans, not all bears are out purposely to do harm. This is where the judgement call of the Conservation Officers is germane. They don’t automatically dispose of the bear by shooting them. Yes, some need to be removed elsewhere but their fate is often not known. There is good reason to believe most transferred bears don’t survive! Some need to be disposed of on site and ASAP. Public safety is the first concern, animal welfare is second. It is important to put the number of actual ‘required’ bear deaths in perspective to the number of incidents attended to on a yearly basis and in what kind of environments. You might be surprised at both numbers! Equally, it has been my experience in working with wildlife staff over 40 years , that Conservation Officers are very tolerant of bear activities when they are in their usual and natural environments. They do not look upon them firstly as threats and nuisances. However, when they are typically in urban environments foraging on human garbage in backyards and alleys, in semi- urban farmers’ food fields and unattended fruit trees, whose at fault? Not the bears, its’ humans! So, better public attention is needed in residential areas and farmers have depredation protocols they can follow. Dealing with ground, low level and even high hanging fruit as attractants needs some special analyses and options for action. So, you see, as I do, there are often more than two sides and interpretations to a situation. The first time an urban bear is not dealt with concerted action by an officer, and a human death occurs, you will have a whole new side of ‘reactors’ coming at you with there ‘takes’ on the bear event! I think it would be prudent for you to put out the facts of how the COS operates with bear protocols and the number of bears put to ground. Has anyone asked them what they would or could do differently given more forceful education, regulations and funding? Or, are there any other viable options? It is time for some transformative thinking in all the parties involved.

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