FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Human Wildlife Conflicts Response Policy
Ministry of Environment
(rev. July 10, 2002)
Q: Why is the Conservation Officer Service changing the way it responds to reports of human-wildlife conflict?
A: The Core Services Review identified a need to shift the focus of the Conservation Officer Service to the protection of human health, followed by the protection of fish, wildlife, and ecosystems. Human-wildlife conflict is usually preventable, and can be largely resolved through increased public education and collective effort to stop attracting wildlife to our communities.
Q: How is the Conservation Officer Service changing the way it responds to reports of human-wildlife conflict from what it has done in the past?
A: Historically, officers gave information to 75 per cent of callers, and attended 25 per cent of human-wildlife conflict reports. Now, officers will no longer respond to reports when there is no threat to human safety or to livestock, or when there is minor property damage. In 2002/3, we estimate that 80 per cent of callers will receive information, and officers will attend the remaining 20 per cent of incidents reported.
Q: Will conservation officers respond if an animal such as a bear or cougar threatens human safety?
A: Absolutely. Conservation officers are continuing to respond to public safety issues - human health is our first priority. We will instead reduce our focus on incidents involving damage to property and to low-risk scenarios where there is no direct threat to human safety.
Incidents involving bears or cougars demonstrating aggressive, habituated, or threatening behaviour towards humans will receive our priority attention. Incidents involving wolves or coyotes demonstrating aggressive behaviour towards humans will receive our priority attention.
It is expected that all but in the rarest occasions conservation officers attending such calls will have to resort to destroying the predator due to the policy regarding public safety.
Q: Can you give an example of a low-risk scenario?
A: Calls that involve nuisance bears tipping garbage cans on a street, deer damaging crops or orchards, coyote sightings in urban areas, cougar sightings in rural areas or raccoons damaging small property items are usually low-risk. Callers can receive advice on problem wildlife by phoning our call centre or visiting the ministry web site (www.gov.bc.ca/env), and may be referred to a community organization such as "Bear Aware" for information on how to make a home and property less attractive to bears and other wildlife.
Q: Will calls to the Conservation Officer Service now be redirected to the call centre?
A: People in British Columbia currently have 24-hour access to report wildlife conflict concerns. The public can contact 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) to report incidents of human-wildlife conflict or to report a violation of provincial regulations or legislation. They can also call their district conservation officer and follow the prompts to reach either the call centre or to leave a message to make a future appointment with their conservation officer.
Q: What steps take place when the public phone the call centre or report an incident of human-wildlife conflict?
A: A conservation officer or an operator trained by the Conservation Officer Service and with a sound knowledge of human-wildlife conflict, its causes, and its prevention will answer your call. Call centre staff will determine whether you require information, or a response from an officer directly. If you require information, staff will answer your questions or direct you to an information line or web site for that information. If staff determine your call requires an officer to respond, they will forward your call to a district office for response. In the case of serious wildlife threats to human health, staff will dispatch an officer to the site of the report and may contact local police on your behalf.
Q: Who decides whether a report of human-wildlife conflict requires a conservation officer to attend?
A: The call centre is staffed with both conservation officers and trained staff practiced at identifying calls that should be referred to district conservation officers. Conservation officers will use professional judgement in determining which reports require information or attendance.
Q: What is the advantage of directing reports of human-wildlife conflict to one call centre?
A: The most efficient way to educate the public and to allow officers to continue to respond to priority calls is for the public to speak to trained call centre staff. Staff will provide advice, pass along information, and refer priority calls to a district conservation officer. Because the call centre will be staffed twenty-four hours, seven days a week, callers will be able to speak to a conservation officer or trained operator directly.
Q: How many human-wildlife conflict calls does the Service receive each year?
A: The CO Service receives thousands of wildlife/human conflict complaints each year. In 2001, the CO Service recorded 17,000 calls. In the past, most calls have been handled by the officers or their administrative staff who advise or educate the caller to help prevent further difficulties with the particular wildlife in question. Very few calls require the officer to attend in person, and less than 20 per cent involve a threat to human safety.
Q: How can you claim to be protecting human health and safety when you are reducing or eliminating Conservation Officers and park rangers, getting out of low-risk events and you have minimal monitoring systems?
A: One-hundred twenty Conservation Officers continue to ensure compliance with provincial regulations and legislation throughout the province. The ministry will provide leadership by setting environmental standards and developing incentives for improved performance, monitoring and reporting on environmental conditions, encouraging others to accept a greater role in environmental protection and stewardship. Conservation officers will continue to play a key role in ensuring these standards are met.
The public and industry are going to have to accept a greater role and responsibility for the environment. We are working to change the emphasis of our work and broaden the level of responsibility. It is not reasonable to expect provincial staff to have the capacity to deal with every human-caused or wildlife-related situation that arises in the province.
Q: Is the public at higher risk of human-wildlife conflict now that the Conservation Officer Service is responding to fewer problem wildlife incidents?
A: Conservation officers will continue to respond promptly to high risk human-wildlife conflicts.
British Columbia has an abundance of wildlife, unsurpassed outdoor recreational opportunities, and many of us live in rural communities close to nature. Despite our best efforts, we will never be able to eliminate the risk of human-wildlife conflict. We must all accept our responsibilities to ensure that humans and wildlife can coexist. We must take necessary steps to reduce the risk of human-wildlife conflict in our communities, and when recreating or working outdoors.
Through increased involvement of communities in programs that work to reduce the number of wildlife attractants in a community, the likelihood of human-wildlife conflict will decrease.