PORT HARDY, British Columbia — A Canadian wildlife officer was suspended without pay last week after he refused to kill two black bear cubs.
According to Canadian broadcaster CBC News, conservation officer Bryce Casavant was called to a Port Hardy mobile home where a black bear was raiding a freezer full of meat and salmon.
The mother bear was killed.
Later, the cubs, a brother and sister, showed up at the property looking for their mother. They climbed a tree and ended up on top of the mobile home. That’s when the conservation officer tranquilized the cubs and took them to a veterinarian, despite orders to put them down, CBC reported.
The cubs were then taken to a recovery center operated by the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association, which is also on Vancouver Island.
The suspension was reported in a local paper, and has since gained international attention.
An online petition had gained nearly 200,000 signatures by Sunday, asking for the reinstatement of Officer Bryce Casavant.
“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.”
British Columbia’s Environment Minister Mary Polak called this a “very sad and unfortunate situation.”
“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,” she said.
The CBC reports anonymous hackers released a string of e-mails showing Casavant defending his decision to refuse to kill the cubs.
It’s unclear what will happen to the cubs. One media outlet reports that the cubs will stay at the wildlife recovery center for 18 months until they’re ready to be released into the wild. That report has not been confirmed by officials.
Thousands of people have taken to social media to advocate for the suspended officer, even British comedian Ricky Gervais tweeted about the story.