Care2 Readers: A few weeks ago, I wrote about three orphaned grizzly bear cubs that had been rescued in Canada. The bears’ mother was shot and killed when she charged a conservation officer checking bear traps in the area. Many of you had questions and concerns about why the officer was checking traps and why he used lethal force on the mother.
I asked the organization that rescued the cubs, the Northern Lights Wildlife Society (NLWS) shelter in Smithers, British Columbia, for more information about this situation to provide better understanding about why this incident took place, and how it could be avoided again in the future.
Here are answers from NLWS Director Angelika Langen.
Q: Why was the conservation officer checking bear traps?
A: “A sow with two cubs was repeatedly reported as a nuisance bear. As we were close to hibernation, a trap was set with hopes to relocate the family unit. As Bella Coola has no resident officers, they get flown in from whomever region has one to spare. Subsequently the CO’s are not familiar with the local bear group. In this case the officer was totally unaware that there was also a mother with 3 cubs in the area. When he checked the trap and saw three bears (one markedly bigger than the others) he considered himself extremely lucky to have caught the family in one strike. As he approached the trap he was totally unaware that there could be another bear out there, as he had indeed caught the triplets instead of the [entire] family unit.”
Q: Why was lethal force used on the mother bear instead of a tranquilizer or other means?
A: “As I said above he never even considered that this was not the family unit, as that information was not made available to him. When the sow attacked he shot in self-defence, there was no time to consider other options.”
Q: What steps will be taken to protect the cubs (from traps or other conservation officers) once they are released back into the wild?
A: “The Conservation Officers are not to blame! The government’s continue[d] cutting of resources and funding have left the few Conservation officers left in an impossible position to manage our wildlife.
“The fact is, no matter what the individual opinion is, if the policies set by the politicians say we save bears (or other animals) that is what is going to happen. Politicians use CO’s as their scapegoats, people are outraged at the CO shooting the bear, when in fact the politician is the one telling him (in no uncertain terms, they are not given a choice here) to pull the trigger, as it is financially cheaper to kill than to manage. As long as there is no change in policies, the protection these cubs are currently enjoying will be short lived.”
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Image Credit: wildlifeshelter.com