CO suspended, cubs at risk

Editor/Publisher Kathy O'Reilly-Taylor on a contentious conservation officer story

In the midst of all the community fear and hard work that was put into fighting fires near Port Hardy this weekend comes what should have been a heart-warming story of two baby bears being rescued from a tree on Hardy Bay Road. Instead, the story has turned into a tale of a Conservation Officer being suspended for trying to do the right thing, and cubs’ lives now in jeopardy.

Rob Hodder is the owner of a mobile home where a female black bear has been hanging around and decided to come in, twice, and break into a freezer where she dined on salmon and deer meat.

Hodder called Conservation Friday and reported the incidents.

Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant attended and the mother bear was captured Sunday morning and destroyed because it was deemed that she was habituated to non-natural food and posed a risk to human safety.

Hodder has seen the female bear with two cubs around the area and knew she had babies out there alone somewhere.

When Hodder came home Sunday afternoon, the two cubs were in the tree in his front yard calling for their mom.

Four hours later they were rescued by firefighters who used their high-angle rescue specialist to scale the tree and rappel down on top of the bears and bring them down to safety where they were sedated.

The two bears were taken to the vet in Port Hardy and found to be healthy. While this story should have a happy ending, it appears that might not be the case. Fodder has learned that someone has called for the baby bears, that weigh a whopping 20 to 25 pounds, to be destroyed.

That doesn’t sit right.

“I have an Aboriginal background and deem them to be a sacred animal to our people and I want them to be saved,” Fodder said. “Especially after all our hard work and efforts that went in to do things the right way. Have them put into a rehabilitation program and have them released once again into the wild,” said Hodder.

“It’s immoral to shoot a helpless baby bear. They are nursing still. They are not garbage bears. They are infants,” Fodder said.

I agree with him completely.

These babies should have the opportunity to go through the rehabilitation program at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association facility in Errington and hopefully take their rightful place back in the wild in 18 months as per the Provincial government’s own policy.

If these tiny baby bears are destroyed, it will be a huge black eye on the province and a decision that will likely echo around the world. It is not acceptable, without further assessment and  investigation, to decide these babies are indeed garbage bears that need to be killed.

The government should not shoot first and ask questions later.  And hats off to Casavant who put his job on the line to do what he thought was the right thing – follow provincial policy.