By SARAH GROCHOWSKI, Alberni Valley News, Princeton Similkameen, Surrey Now Leader, Campbell River Mirror, Trail Times, Daily Advent, Nanaimo Bulletin, Victoria News
Wildlife advocates are for calling for conservation officers responding to conflicts between humans and bears in B.C. to wear body cameras.
This, after more than 600 black bears were reported killed in the past year at the hands of B.C. Conservation Officer Service.
Dozens of advocacy groups – including Pacific Wild and Wildlife Biologists – have joined forces to form B.C. Bear Alliance to raise a collective voice for non-lethal bear management.
In total, more than 19,500 human-bear interactions were reported in B.C. between April 2020 and March 2021, according to data acquired by the group.
Of them, 14 per cent were responded to by conservation officers. A total of 650 black bears were killed.
“That says to me that it’s not working,” said committee member Lesley Fox, a humane education specialist.
The alliance is urging for the independent oversight of officers, similar to police, to encourage more non-lethal bear interventions.
“We can’t kill or relocate our way out of these problems,” Fox said.
“Many of us look at humans and animals as being in conflict. Conflict suggests that there are two parties that don’t agree. Animals are not willing participants.”
She said conservation officers need to pay more attention to humans who leave garbage around or outright feed wild animals. Under B.C.’s Wildlife Act, attracting dangerous wildlife is an offence punishable by a $230 fine.
Ticketing more humans would work as a preventative measure, she said, leading to fewer bears in residential areas.
“Killing should be the absolute last resort.”
For conservation officers suspected of wrongdoing, a formal complaint process exists through the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
However, since the province oversees the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, “filing a complaint means that officers are investigating the conduct of their friends and colleagues,” said Fox.
“This undermines public trust.”