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article imageWildlife officer suspended after refusing to kill bear cubs

By Megan Hamilton     Jul 13, 2015 in Environment
Port Hardy - A simple act of kindness by a wildlife official in British Columbia has taken the Internet by storm.
It started when conservation officer Bryce Casavant responded to a call about a black bear raiding a freezer stuffed with deer meat and fish.
The mother bear, who was raiding the freezer of a mobile home in Port Hardy, on Vancouver Island, was killed. Apparently she'd done this more than once.
A short while later, the cubs, a brother and sister, showed up at the property looking for their mom, and wound up climbing a tree and then made their way to the roof of the mobile home, Q13Fox News reports. That's when Casavant tranquilized the babies and took them to a veterinarian, despite orders to put them down.
Next, the cubs were taken to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association, also on Vancouver Island. For his efforts, Casavant was suspended without pay because he refused to kill the cubs.
A local paper reported on the suspension and the story gained international attention.
No danger to humans
The ball began rolling with a series of redacted emails, released in an email purportedly coming from the hacker collective Anonymous, that were distributed to media outlets on Friday morning, CBC News reports here.
In one email, it appears that Casavant defends his decision not to kill the cubs, saying "My primary mandate is to public safety and the immediate threat has been removed (i.e. the sow). My duties as a law enforcement officer do not include the needless destruction of a baby animal that can be rehabilitated."
Now, an online petition asking Environment Minister Mary Polak to reinstate Casavant via has gained almost 200,000 signatures.
Robin Campbell, a manager for the recovery association, says that the order to kill the cubs is unusual, as they are fearful of humans and good candidates for release. The center has a provincial permit to rehabilitate black bears, CBC News reports.
"In 30 years, this is the first time we've ever had an issue like this," recovery center manager Robin Campbell told the CBC. "There has to be some kind of misunderstanding ... hopefully somebody will come to their senses."
"[The mother bear} was a problem, but these cubs did nothing," he said.
The two babies are now named Jordan and Athena.
Angelika Langen is the most experienced rehabilitation for black bears in B.C., The Vancouver Sun reports, and is a co-founder of the Northern Lights Wildlife Society.
She said that it makes little sense for the Ministry of Environment to say that the cubs, who are only eight weeks old, needed to be killed because they are habituated to human food.
"It's just ridiculous," she said. "There is absolutely no scientific proof that cubs that follow their mothers for (human) food at this age have learned anything.
"When they're little like this they're just following mom; they're not learning yet. When they're more than one year old it's a totally different story."
More than 300 black bears have been released from her facility in the past 25 years, and not a single one has gotten into trouble by snacking on human garbage. Bears at the facility receive ear tags and are microchipped to identify them after release.
"If one of our bears showed up and caused trouble, we'd be notified but we've never had a garbage bear," she said. "Not one. And we'd hear about it."
The cubs' situation has even caught the attention of British comedian Ricky Gervais, who took to Twitter with a request to put Casavant back to work.
"Reinstate this honourable man," he tweeted.
As of July 12, the B.C. Ministry of Environment hadn't announced what it plans to do regarding the cubs, but released a statement saying the Conservation Service is investigating "this situation, including the actions of its members," Fox News reported. This media outlet states that the cubs will stay at the center for the next 18 months until they are ready to be released into the wild, but this has not been confirmed by officials as yet.
On its website, the center also corroborates this, so hopefully that's the case.
"This is a very sad and unfortunate situation," Polak said in a statement, CBC News reports. "Although conservation officers must sometimes put down wild animals for the safety of the public and the welfare of the animal, we understand how difficult it is for all involved."
Hopefully, these adorable cubs will be given the chance to play and tumble throughout the rest of their days and be released into the wild as healthy adults.
The B.C. government has recently reinstated Casavant's pay, The Vancouver Sun reports.
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