Officer awaits fate as snoozing bear cubs on track for return to the wild

Jordan and Athena healthy and happy at North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre while arbitrator determines future of Bryce Casavant

Bear cubs Jordan and Athena in mid-October

Bear cubs Jordan and Athena in mid-October

As the fate of B.C. conservation officer Bryce Casavant is being determined by a union grievance hearing, the two bear cubs he saved are doing what bears do in the winter.

They are hibernating.

Jordan and Athena, now each a year old, became international celebrities in July of last year when Casavant defied government orders and refused to kill them.

Because of that decision, the cubs are today sleeping peacefully in a man-made enclosure at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre near Parksville, biding their time until they will be reintroduced into the wild later this year.

“They’re doing really, really well,” NIWRC wildlife manager Julie Mackey said. “They’re in an enclosed facility with six other cubs. They eat a lot and sleep a lot and chase each other around.”

The chasing has been less common since early December when the cubs went down for their mid-winter snooze. Rising temperatures will probably push them out of their den soon. Mackey said they should be ready for release — likely at an undisclosed north Island location — some time this spring or summer.

The goal of the centre is to keep wild animals as independent and isolated from humans as much as possible until they are healthy enough — or, in this case, mature enough — to survive in the wild. For Jordan and Athena, everything is happening according to plan.

“They see us for a short period, but they really haven’t been hands-on since they came here,” Mackey said. “We want them to be wild bears so that they run away like normal bears. They’re not showing any behaviour different from the other cubs.”

Lack of comfort around humans has been central to the cubs’ survival.

They received worldwide attention when Casavant disobeyed an order from his superiors within B.C.’s Ministry of Environment to put them down after their mother was caught ravaging a freezer July 3 in Port Hardy.

He shot the mom as being too habituated to humans for rehabilitation, but determined the cubs did not meet the same standard and could be saved.

Casavant was originally suspended for his actions, then transferred out of the conservation officer service into another department at the same wage. His union grieved that move, asking an arbitrator to reinstate him to his original position.

B.C. Government Employees Union spokesperson Chris Bradshaw said Friday that Casavant’s hearing is being heard in two parts, the first which happened in January, the second which was scheduled for Feb. 6 and 8.

Bradshaw said he couldn’t say when the arbitrator would announce his ruling. In the meantime, Casavant remains employed by the ministry in the north Island area.

Boosted by the support of British comedian Ricky Gervais, an online petition for Casavant’s reinstatement started by Port Hardy’s Vi-Anne Roberts has now passed a total of 309,000 signatures.

Roberts is hopeful the attention will make the ministry adjust the way it does business.

“The only lesson that needs to be learned here is by the government. Policies need to change, and change fast,” she said. “Our conservation officers are out there to ‘conserve’ whenever they can, however they can. Let them do their job morally, accordingly and properly.”

Representatives for the ministry had not responded to questions about the case by the time of this posting, but Roberts has no doubt in her mind about how this situation should conclude.

“I consider what Bryce did for those cubs heroic, yes. He put his job on the line to save those cubs, and paid the ultimate price for doing so. It’s a terrible shame,” she said.

“I’m hoping that once released back into the wild they will adjust well.. and live long, uninterrupted lives.”

Just Posted

(File photo)
Poverty reduction survey identifies 10 poverty themes

Poverty reduction plan will be finalized in July 2021

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly says he has no intentions of leaving the Green Party. (House of Commons image)
Island Green MPs have “no intention” of leaving the party after ‘heartbreaking’ departure

Manly, May only remaining Green MPs after Jenica Atwin left for the Liberals over internal disputes

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

Justine Keefer’s Cedar Elementary School Grade 6/7 class put together a student paper, as part of a school project. Pictured here Andrew Gregory, left, Felix Leduc, Addison Armstrong, Lucia Walker and Anise Dick. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Cedar Elementary School students create their own newspaper

Grade 6/7 class publishes Wolf Pack News as part of language arts and social studies

Évangeline Laforest and Oscar McClements’ invention La Méduse (the Jellyfish) removes oil from the ocean. The invention was one of 15 out of 700 inventions submitted to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Little Inventors contest. (Cole Schisler photo)
‘Little Inventors’ from Ladysmith showcased in national science challenge

Évangeline Laforest and Oscar McClements were one of 15 finalists in the Little Inventors Challenge

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read