VANCOUVER — A conservation officer who defied his bosses and refused to euthanize two orphaned bear cubs is being pushed out of his job, but he’s not being fired.
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 now Casavant has been told he will be transferred out of the Conservation Officer Service.
His union is vowing to fight the move.
“Casavant should not have been suspended, and he should not be transferred from his job as a conservation officer,” Stephanie Smith, president of the BC Government and Service Employees Union, said in a release.
“He has a distinguished record of public service in law enforcement,” she said. “Bryce Casavant did the right thing when he decided these young bears should be assessed for rehabilitation.”
Casavant’s actions represent the highest ideals of the Conservation Officer Service and its motto “integrity, service and protection,” Smith said.
Jamie Edwardson, a spokesman for the B.C. Public Service Agency, said Casavant’s transfer is not a disciplinary action against him.
He said Casavant is being moved to an equivalent position within government and that his salary will remain the same.
“We value the contributions of all public service employees,” Edwardson said. “If an employee is reassigned to a new position, we will offer them assistance as they make the transition to their new role. We want all employees to be successful.”
The union said it will file a grievance against the transfer, in addition to a grievance already filed over Casavant’s original suspension in July.
It intends to take both issues to arbitration, although a hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Edwardson said the government will not comment on issues that could be going to arbitration.
The bears are now part of a rearing and release program for orphaned cubs after it was determined they were 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.