British Columbia

Bear in Whistler falls to 'unnecessary' death after being tranquilized in tree, complaint alleges

According to the complaint, the officer shot the bear with a tranquilizer dart once it had gone up a tree. The bear then fell to the ground and broke its neck leaving its three cubs orphaned.

Ministry says conservation officers' actions were 'in the interest of public safety'

The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals says the October death of a black bear (not shown in this picture) that fell out of a tree was unnecessary. (Tyson Koschik/CBC file photo)

A Vancouver animal rights group has filed a complaint after a conservation officer tranquilized a mother bear in a tree causing it to fall out and die.

The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals alleged the conservation officer was not equipped to safely take down the bear in Whistler on Oct. 8, and called the ensuing death unnecessary.

According to the complaint, the officer shot the bear with a tranquilizer dart once it had gone up a tree. The bear then fell to the ground and broke its neck leaving its three cubs orphaned.

"The officer immobilized the mother, which, of course, once immobilized, would fall and there was no plan for them to help brace her fall and prevent any injuries," Fur Bearers executive director Lesley Fox told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko.

The complaint suggests the officer should have set up some sort of netting to make sure the bear could fall without harm — or just wait for the animal to come down on its own.

Fox said her group's understanding of the situation was the bear was eating tree fruit in a residential area with denning season approaching and wasn't directly threatening any people or property.

"Giving the officer a tranquilizing gun but not a capture net is negligent," Fox said. "We're well aware that the B.C. Conservation Officer Service has a history of using lethal force in a way that we believe is unnecessary."

In a statement, the Ministry of Environment, which is responsible for conservation officers, said staff must make decisions in the field when it comes to wildlife.

"The decision to tranquilize the bear was made in the interest of public safety and mitigating food conditioning and habituation of the bears," a spokesperson wrote.

"[Conservation officers] are not always able to control the movement of animals while the immobilization drugs are taking effect."

The ministry said the best way to reduce situations like this one is to reduce the number of attractants that draw a bear into human-inhabited areas, and its efforts are focused on education about attractants.

Listen to the full story:

According to the complaint, the officer shot the bear with a tranquilizer dart once it had gone up a tree. The bear then fell to the ground and broke its neck leaving its three cubs orphaned. 8:03

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

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