BRITISH COLUMBIA

Bryce Casavant, Conservation Officer Who Saved Bears, Ousted From Department

08/28/2015 02:40 EDT | Updated 08/28/2016 05:59 EDT

VANCOUVER — A conservation officer who defied his bosses and refused to euthanize two orphaned bear cubs is being pushed out of his job, says the union that represents him.

Bryce Casavant won the hearts of animal lovers when he opted not to shoot the baby bears in July after their mother was destroyed for repeatedly raiding homes near Port Hardy, B.C.

Casavant sent the cubs to a wildlife refuge instead.

But the decision earned him a suspension with pay, and on Friday, Casavant was transferred out of the Conservation Officer Service.

Stephanie Smith, president of the BC Government and Service Employees Union, said Casavant is shocked and disappointed by the move.

"He takes his role as a steward of our natural resources and our wildlife very seriously," Smith said.

Jamie Edwardson, a spokesman for the B.C. Public Service Agency, said Casavant's transfer was not a disciplinary action against him.

He said Casavant was moved to an equivalent position at the same salary and would be offered any training he needs.

"We value the contributions of all public service employees," Edwardson said. "We want all employees to be successful."

Smith disagreed that the transfer did not amount to punishment.

"Officer Casavant was transferred out of his position as a conservation officer, a career path that he had chosen for himself. So we believe that that is disciplinary."

The union will file a grievance against the move, in addition to a grievance already filed over Casavant's original suspension in July, Smith said.

"We believe that Officer Casavant was following prescribed policies and procedures when he made the decision not to kill the baby bears without doing a proper risk assessment."

Citing privacy, the union declined to say where Casavant was transferred but said his new job was still on northern Vancouver Island.

The bears are now part of a rearing and release program for orphaned cubs after they were assessed as being in good health and not conditioned to humans.

They are being cared for at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre near Nanaimo and are scheduled to be released in a remote habitat sometime in 2016.

The outcome shows Casavant made the right call, Smith said.

"Obviously, if they've been determined to be good candidates for rehabilitation his assessment to have them taken for that further assessment was the right call," she said.

"They certainly wouldn't have been rehabilitated if he'd followed the direct order to kill them on site."

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