VANCOUVER – A British Columbia court has dismissed a case in which a wildlife advocacy group accused the provincial government of not following its own law on the destruction of wildlife.
The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals filed a petition with the B.C. Supreme Court earlier this year challenging a conservation officer’s decision to kill a black bear cub near Dawson Creek in May 2016.
Lawyers for the group argued in court last month that the officer didn’t have the authority under the Wildlife Act to euthanize the cub after it was found on the roadside, apparently orphaned.
“The province says there are no legal limits on the ability of conservation officers to kill animals,” Arden Beddoes, a lawyer representing the Fur-Bearers, said at the time.
“What we say is that … the Wildlife Act actually directs that there are limits,” he said. “If they’re not a threat, the officer, we say, does not have authority to kill the animal.”
The province argued the law implies officers can destroy animals at their discretion, and the conservation officer decided the cub was not a suitable candidate for captive rearing and release.
Justice Gordon Weatherill said in a written decision released last week that he agrees with the province.
“I find it inconceivable that the legislature intended to restrict the wildlife management powers of officers to kill wildlife to those that are at large and likely to harm,” the decision says.
Weatherill noted the authority to destroy animals is not “unlimited or unfettered.” He said officers can only kill wildlife when they are performing their duties and the actions follow government policy.
The Fur-Bearers group said in a tweet that they are disappointed in the decision and “exploring options and next steps” with legal counsel.
Conservation officers in B.C. responded to 1,972 calls about black bears and killed 454 of the animals between January and the end of October. During the same period last year, they responded to 1,757 calls and killed 458 black bears.