By David F. Rooney
With Adam Christie’s retirement last month, the Conservation Officer Service is wrapping up his Revelstoke-based position and moving it to Golden.
“A review of the deployment of officers in the Columbia Kootenay region found moving the sergeant position from Revelstoke to Golden would provide the best level of service to the entire zone and enhance safety and mutual operational support for the two officers in Invermere and one in Golden,” an Environment Ministry spokesman told The Revelstoke Current on Tuesday, January 14.
“The review was based on location and types of complaints and calls received throughout the region, and took into consideration the safety and wellbeing of our officers.”
The only thing standing in the way of that may be a broad-based letter-writing campaign by local residents.
The Rod and Gun Club, Revelstoke Bear Aware and even the local RCMP detachment have already written letters to Environment Minister Mary Polak asking that she replace Christie with another CO.
“Our community works hard to prevent conflict with the local bear population, but inevitably some conflict does occur,” Bear Aware Coordinator Sue Davies said in her letter to Polak, which was presented to Council during its regular meeting on Tuesday afternoon. “In these cases a Conservation Officer must make critical decisions to ensure both human safety and the best option for the bear. Over the last few years Revelstoke has had an average of around 150 (and some years up to 220) bear sightings reported per season, many of which result in a call out for the Conservation Officer. An average of seven bears are destroyed here every year. In a town with as many bears as Revelstoke, Conservation Officers who are trained specifically in dealing with wildlife conflicts are an essential part of our community.”
Davies noted that the absence of a CO puts “added pressure on the busy local RCMP who have had to step in. The recent and very public destruction of a black bear by the RCMP is a case in point,” she wrote.
“This bear had not begun its hibernation, probably due to lack of body fat reserves, and was becoming habituated and conditioned to human food. The Conservation Officer was out of town and the RCMP, whose officers have little or no wildlife conflict training, had to respond to a very difficult situation in which the destruction of the bear appeared to the public to be less humane than would have been the case had a Conservation Officer been in town that day.”
In a separate letter of support filed with City Council, RCMP Staff Sgt. Kurt Grabinsky said Mounties receive “minimal training specific to animal management.” This means they deal with animals as threats to public safety. That means they shoot them.
“The Revelstoke RCMP is confident that the replacement of a Conservation Officer in this area would aid the community resulting in greater public safety, animal conservation and continued partnerships between the Police and Conservation Officer Service,” Grabinsky wrote.
Matt Angus, chairman of the Rod and Gun Club’s Land Wildlife Committee, echoed some of those themes.
“Revelstoke is remote to other locations where Conservation Officers are located and providing this environmental function in a timely manner is important to the enforcement needs of this area,” he wrote. “Officers from other communities are required to travel over two hours to respond. This response time typically limits the ability of the officers to be effective in their enforcement role.
“Of particular concern for us is the rapidly escalating poaching of both fish and wildlife in this area. Without a local officer these activities will become more common and could create the loss of some important populations of fish and wildlife.”
Mayor David Raven said he spoke with the Conservation Officer Service and noted that while they were sympathetic they made no promises.
“We’ll see what happens after they start receiving letters about this,” he said at the conclusion of City Council’s meeting Tuesday.
You can help by writing a letter to Environment Minister Mary Polak. You can send it as an e-mail to ENV.Minister@gov.bc.ca. You can also send it by Canada Post to:
Environment Minister Mary Polak
PO BOX 9047
STN PROV GOVT
If you like you can also fax your letter to: 250-387-1356