British comedian and self-described animal avenger Ricky Gervais has weighed in on the controversial suspension of a B.C. conservation officer who refused to kill bear cubs.

"Reinstate this honourable man," wrote Gervais on Twitter, adding a link to the CBC News story about the unusual case.

Bryce Casavant had been suspended without pay for refusing to kill two black bear cubs near Port Hardy after their mother was killed for repeatedly raiding a freezer full of meat and salmon.

Following public outcry, Casavant's pay was reinstated on Wednesday, but his suspension continued, said the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union, which represents conservation officers.

Despite an order to kill the cubs, Casavant took them to a veterinary hospital. The two animals are now at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington, which like Port Hardy is on Vancouver Island — but it's not clear what will happen next.

Fate of cubs still uncertain

The mother had been causing problems in the area — but the orphaned cubs had not.

They were fearful of humans, and only returned to the mobile home where their mom raided the freezer to look for her, said Robin Campbell, manager of the recovery centre. He considers the cubs good candidates for future release to the wild.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service hasn't decided yet whether that will happen.

The cubs are being assessed by a provincial veterinarian and wildlife biologists, said Insp. Chris Doyle on Wednesday. A key factor will be how habituated they are to humans, and how likely it is they will survive in the wild.

"Unfortunately, not all of those cubs will stay wild, based on what kind of exposure to humans and food they've had, either before going to the rehab facilities or potentially at the rehab facilities," said Doyle.

Retired bear expert Barrie Gilbert says the uproar over the bear cubs who were almost shot in B.C. has more to do with "heart strings" than conservation. 

He says black bears are far less threatened than Vancouver Island's elusive marmots.

"My personal value system is I'd rather see people put their effort into threatened populations like your marmots on Vancouver Island ... [But] the heart strings are pulled when you are talking baby bears. I mean, what's more attractive?"

More than 59,000 people have signed a petition as of Wednesday 6:30 p.m. PT calling on B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak to reinstate Casavant.

Doyle said the B.C. Conservation Service wouldn't comment on any personnel matter, due to privacy reasons.

Gervais, a comedian and actor perhaps best known for creating the BBC hit The Office, regularly tweets about animal- rights issues, including the Yulin dog meat festival in China, and criticizing trophy hunters.

Two cubs

After a community paper, the North Island Gazette, posted a story showing the tranquillized cubs, a petition was started to reinstate the conservation officer. (North Island Gazette)