07/07/2015 04:37 EDT | Updated 07/07/2016 05:59 EDT

Refusing To Kill Bear Cubs Leads To Suspension For B.C. Conservation Officer

"In 30 years, this is the first time we've ever had an issue like this."

B.C. Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant has been suspended without pay for refusing to destroy two black bear cubs near Port Hardy after their mother was killed for repeatedly raiding a freezer full of meat and salmon.

Despite an order to destroy the cubs too, Casavant took them to a veterinary hospital. They are now at a recovery centre run by the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington.

Robin Campbell, the recovery centre's manager, said the conservation officer did the right thing as the cubs are not habituated to humans and can be reintroduced to the wild.

"[The mother bear] was a problem, but these cubs did nothing."

After Casavant's suspension was reported in a community paper, an online petition was started asking Environment Minister Mary Polak to reinstate the officer.

Mother bear raided freezer

The conservation service had been called by a homeowner to deal with the cubs' mother after she repeatedly raided the freezer inside a mobile home south of Port Hardy, said Campbell.

The cubs — a brother and sister — returned to the property, climbing trees, and looking for their mother.

Casavant tranquillized the cubs and took them to a veterinarian, who found they were in good health, Campbell said.

Campbell, whose facility has a provincial permit to rehabilitate black bears, called the order to destroy the cubs unusual, since they were fearful of humans and good candidates for release.

"In 30 years, this is the first time we've ever had an issue like this," he said. "There has to be some kind of misunderstanding ... hopefully somebody will come to their senses."

Casavant confirmed he was suspended without pay over the cubs, but declined to comment further.

The Ministry of Environment said it won't comment on personnel matters due to privacy reasons.


Photo gallery Orphaned Black Bear Cubs, July 2015 See Gallery