Never in a million years did I think I would be tracking a bear that was shot by crossbow in a B.C. neighbourhood, but that’s exactly what was happening.
I was following three B.C. Conservation officers tirelessly searching for the wounded bear; the animal could be a real threat to families in the area. It wasn’t at all lost on me that there was a wounded, distressed, WILD animal running loose, and these guys actually wanted to come face to face with it! I had no idea how heroic Conservation Officers are until this day.
Just like firefighters and police, Conservation Officers run into high-stress, dangerous situations every day; they’re silent heroes working behind the scenes to keep our neighbourhoods safe for people and wildlife alike. Basically, B.C. Conservation Officers are really, really cool.
The man who shot the bear thought he was saving his dog’s life. Apparently the bear had wandered into his back yard looking for food and came upon his dog. Human-wildlife conflicts involving bears is one of the most common problems the Conservation Officer Service faces in naturally-abundant British Columbia. People forget about their wild (and hungry!) neighbours, and leave their nice-smelling garbage and fallen fruit outside—an open-invitation to a dinner party.
This is what happened here. The man had old apples, deadfall from his tree, strewn about his lawn, and his garbage cans were easily accessible. When the bear sniffed its way into the yard, the man’s dog went into protective mode and the two animals were in a face-off. The man, scared for his dog’s life, shot the bear with a crossbow, and the bear ran off.
Sergeant Todd Hunter and his team didn’t give up. Just like a scene out of a crime novel, they followed the trail they deduced was often used by the bear; there was garbage from trash cans and fallen fruit from the trees. And now there was also blood, quite a lot of it.
There was no time to waste—if someone in the neighbourhood came across this wounded bear it could have catastrophic results. And if the bear was badly wounded, they didn’t want it to suffer. But they couldn’t find the bear.
Sergeant Hunter, with years of experience working all over British Columbia, mentored the other members. He figured the bear would probably be inside some kind of den. So they backtracked and, sure enough, they found the bear.
The bear was dead.
Like the true professionals they are, the officers, without missing a beat, did the dirty work of getting the bear out of the den and into their truck.
For someone who doesn’t come across this sort of thing very often, I found it hard to witness. But what surprised me was that even though these officers see this—sadly, all the time—it was hard for them, too.
These officers do this work because they love people and they love wildlife. The B.C. Conservation Officer Service puts a huge emphasis on education and enforcement to prevent just this sort of outcome. Hopefully with stories like these, people will consider the results of their actions and help to keep themselves and wildlife protected. And with brave Conservation Officers like these ones, we’re on the right track.
Leia Hutchings, Director
Leia Hutchings is a photographer, a storyteller and a world traveller. After earning a diploma in Broadcast Journalism from BCIT she’s worked as a director, story producer and camera operator on productions such as Highway Thru Hell, Airshow, Emergency, and now, Keeping Canada Safe. Leia says that the best part of her job is meeting “the countless people who have let me into their individual universes for an intimate look at the lives they lead.”