BCBA Update July 27, 2021

An update on (1) the needless killing of our bears, especially mothers, and orphaning of cubs; (2) issues with Ministry structure and how it affects bear management; (3) unnecessary radio collaring of released orphaned cubs; and (4) trapping bears in hot weather.

BCBA supporters:

Sorry that it has been a while since you’ve heard from us. Or, if you’re a new supporter, welcome aboard. It has been an incredibly busy summer. Our members have been on the ground educating residents to prevent the unnecessary killing of our precious bears, and they have spoken up about the unthinkable random killing of coyotes in Stanley Park and the use of leghold traps.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been enough. Mothers have been shot and dependant cubs left behind to die. Crews have been working long hours to try to capture the orphans so that they can be sent to Critter Care Wildlife Society for a second chance at life.

We have written letters to government officials to no avail. They are not responding with a satisfactory action plan! The public needs to express their outrage and stand up for wildlife. Let the government know when their actions do not align with what you believe. Guidance for letter writing is linked here.

We have written both Ministries responsible for wildlife. Having two ministries responsible is a challenge in itself. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (MOE), under which the Conservation Officer Service (COS) resides, is responsible for enforcement of the Wildlife Act and responding to so-called human-wildlife conflict situations. The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) writes the policy that is enforced by the MOE. It is interesting to note that wildlife is not mentioned in either title. We believe that demonstrates the lack of will to protect wildlife.

That aside, while the COS has full police enforcement capabilities, there is no external oversight. They need only justify their actions internally. The BC COS needs an overhaul generally, but specifically, they need more accountability, more transparency in decision making, and independent 3rd party oversight. There are several organizations working on this issue, some of whom are our members. We support this work fully. For more information, you can listen to this: https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-110-daybreak-south/clip/15843646-a-coalition-calls-reform-bcs-bear-management-program.

Read more here: https://pacificwild.org/police-act-reform-submission/

The BC Bear Alliance wrote a letter to Minister Heyman et al on May 25 to introduce ourselves and direct them to our website (https://www.bearalliance.com) for a list of initiatives we believe are important. We received a generic response on July 6. Read our letter and their response here: https://bearalliance.com/open-letter-minister-of-environment-heyman/

Radio Collaring Released Orphaned Cubs

We have written the Senior Wildlife Biologist in Terrestrial Wildlife Resources to express our concerns over radio collaring recently released yearlings from Critter Care Wildlife Society (CCWS). CCWS specializes in the treatment, care and release of sick, injured and orphaned native mammal species of BC’s Southern and Lower Mainland.

We are concerned that placing fitted radio collars on growing yearlings is not in the best interests of the bears’ welfare. In fact, it may negatively impact their survival as wild bears.

There is a mountain of evidence already published in the very prestigious Journal of Wildlife Management to support the success of released yearlings from rehabilitation programs, and further research, in our opinion, is not necessary, safe for the animals, or fiscally responsible. The paper [Management Implications for Releasing Orphaned, Captive-Reared Bears Back to the Wild, Beecham et al, 2015] clearly states that, after examining the fates of 550 captive-reared bears in 12 geographically disparate areas across three continents under a variety of management regimes, rehab is a defensible management alternative. In addition, a document prepared for the BC Conservation Foundation and published in May 2019, “Management of Orphaned Black Bear Cubs in British Columbia: Jurisdictional Summary, Recommendations for Best Practices, Summary of Research on Captive-Rearing Efficacy, and Study Proposal”, pages 57-64 summarize 10 reports on rehab and the efficacy of such. The conclusion the author offers is this: All 10 studies … suggest that cubs released from captive-rearing can survive at rates similar to and are no more prone to conflicts than their wild counterparts.

Regardless of our input, the project went ahead anyway. Ten yearlings have been radio collared and released. Let’s hope it doesn’t negatively impact their survival and that the results provide meaningful contributions to a better understanding of the efficacy of bear rehab.

Letter to Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development regarding rescue, care and release of orphaned cubs.

A letter to Minister Katrine Conroy of FLNRORD and Jennifer Psyllakis, the Director of Wildlife was sent July 26. It contains our recommendations to improve rescue and release of orphan bear cubs. We are hoping for a thoughtful and positive response. You may review the letter here: https://bearalliance.com/open-letter-to-minister-katrine-conroy-flnrord/

Trapping Bears in Hot Weather

On June 29, we requested that culvert traps are not used to capture bears during our extreme heat waves. We received the following response on July 19th:

Thank you for your email of June 29, 2021, regarding the use of metal bear traps.

The Conservation Officer Service (COS) understands people are passionate about the well-being of wildlife. Our agency takes the safety and welfare of bears in the field very seriously.

Conservation officers are trained in the proper handling and care of animals, which includes guidance from the provincial veterinarian. During the unprecedented heat wave, the COS pulled several traps due to the extreme temperatures.

Although it is standard practice to ensure the culvert-style live traps used are placed in shaded areas, checked frequently and near to residents whom are encouraged to call day or night if a bear enters, it could still take some time for officers to reach the area. In very high temperatures, we know this could cause undue stress on the animal and the COS decided to remove some traps for the time being.

Public safety remains the priority and Conservation Officers are continuing to monitor bear activity.

Thank you again for taking the time to write.

Sincerely,

Jim Standen

Assistant Deputy Minister

BC Parks and Conservation Officer Service Division

Blog Posts and Media Releases

We would like to encourage you to stay up to date with the news and media releases, as well as our informative blog posts.

Language tip

We’d like to make a request to our supporters. We are working on a number of directives on the topic of language that is used to describe our relationship with bears and bear behaviour.

Terminology in news reports has a significant impact on the attitudes and prejudices of audiences. The BC Bear Alliance (BCBA) would like to encourage the media to provide the best information possible using accurate language.

One of the most commonly misused terms is “euthanize”.

EUTHANIZE means to kill an animal who is suffering from an incurable disease or condition. Bears that are killed for accessing human food in residential areas are not euthanized; they are killed. Using terms like remove (which could mean kill or relocate), euthanize, put down, and destroy take the heat off the people who created the problem and the officer and agency that are tasked to respond to the situation. In the long run, that’s not helpful. Call it what it is….. “killing”. If the goal is to put the onus back on the root cause and prevent it from happening again and again, let’s not sugar-coat it.

Call out the media and officers for using this term and correct them. And never use the term yourself.

Encourage your friends to join the Alliance and Stand Up for Bears! https://bearalliance.com/take-action/

Thank you for your ongoing support and standing up for bears and other wildlife. You are their only hope!