Bryce Casavant, a Canadian conservation officer, has won a legal battle to clear his name after he had been fired in 2015 for failing to kill two bear cubs.
The original incident occurred when Casavant was called out to a mobile home park near Port Hardy in British Columbia after residents had spotted a female black bear foraging through a freezer containing meat and fish.
British Columbia’s policy in these situations – where a bear allegedly becomes reliant on human food sources, is for the animal to be killed.
But after executing the mother bear, Casavant was told that the baby bears had not been eating the human food. He therefore felt that the cubs deserved a chance to survive and he took them to a vet. From there, the small bears were taken to the North Island Recovery Centre and later released back into the wild.
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The story should really have ended there. But instead, Casavant’s refusal to kill the cubs resulted in his supervising officer issuing a formal notice of complaint alleging ‘the disciplinary default of neglect of duty’.
Casavant was subsequently suspended and then fired soon after. He had been employed for two years at his time of dismissal. It then took years of fighting at various levels of provincial court, and mounting legal fees, before the British Columbia Court of Appeals ruled in his favour this month.
‘Clouds lifted….but a bittersweet moment’
“I feel like the black clouds that have hung over my family for years are finally starting to part,” Casavant said. “But the moment is bittersweet – my firing should have never happened in the first place.
“I kept fighting so that I could clear my name,” he added. “I’ve long stood for public service, honour and integrity. It’s how I was raised and how I’ve raised my daughter. I really feel that I was targeted.”
Casavant has also been vocal about what he believes has been an over-eagerness to terminate black bears.
According to conservation group Pacific Wild, an organization with which Casavant has worked, more than 4,500 bears have been slaughtered by conservation officers in British Columbia in the last eight years.
‘[British Columbia] isn’t a shooting gallery for government employees,’ Casavant wrote in a report. ‘It’s unreasonable to believe that, including juvenile bear cubs, over 4,000 black bears were killed “as a last resort”.’
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Image credit: Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service , Pixabay & BC Conservation Officer Service