British Columbia Conservation Officer Service

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British Columbia Conservation Officer Service
British Columbia Conservation Officer Service (crest).jpg
Armorial Bearings of BC COS
Common nameConservation Officer
MottoIntegrity, Service and Protection
Agency overview
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdictionBritish Columbia, Canada
Legal jurisdictionProvince of British Columbia
Governing bodyMinistry of Environment (British Columbia)
Constituting instrument
HeadquartersVictoria, BC

Elected officer responsible
  • The Honourable George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Agency executive
  • Doug Forsdick, Chief Conservation Officer
Conservation Officer Service Homepage

British Columbia Conservation Officer Service (BCCOS) is responsible for protecting the environment and natural resources in British Columbia. Conservation Officers are peace officers, armed, and enforce 6 federal statutes and 25 provincial statutes, including the Species at Risk Act, Liquor Control and Licensing Act, Wildlife Act and Environmental Management Act.[2]

COS is headquartered at Victoria and operates out of 44 office locations. COS is involved in outreach and education, compliance monitoring and verification, public reporting, investigations and enforcement actions.[3]

History/Highlights [4][edit]

On July 1, 1905, British Columbia established the Department for the Protection of Game and Forests, hired the first Game and Forest Warden which eventually grew into the BCCOS today.[5]

From 1918-1929, Game Wardens were abolished and the British Columbia Provincial Police took over the responsibility to enforce wildlife legislations.

In 1961, Game Wardens were officially renamed to Conservation Officer.

In 1980, Conservation Officer Services became a distinct part of the Ministry.

In 1983, Conservation Officers are appointed as special provincial constable. Up until 1987, all COs were males.[6]

Between the years of 1997-2000, COs were given a much wider authority in their law enforcement duties, including the ability to conduct surveillance, seize property and to arrest and detain.

In 2002, the Chief Conservation Officer became a legislated position and was placed in charge of BCCOS. He can now designate anyone to become conservation officers, auxiliary conservation officers or special conservation officers, depending on the needs of the agency.

July 1, 2005 marked the 100th Anniversary since the first appointment of Game Warden.


At one time the service had Regular and Seasonal officers. Currently, there are full-time regular and special conservation officers.



Conservation Officers are sometimes required to kill wildlife they deem a risk to public safety or property. But, not all animal killings are that straight-forward, and much controversy has arisen in recent years.

Bryce Casavant[edit]

In spring of 2015, Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant did not follow orders[7] to kill the two cubs of a female bear who was killed after she continued to raid a freezer full of meat and salmon. Casavant took the cubs to a veterinary hospital, and they were then transferred to a rehabilitation facility which will eventually release them into their natural environment. He was suspended for refusing to follow the order, despite the cubs showing no signs of being a danger to people or property. The suspension, and subsequent public outcry, generated international media attention, including a tweet from popular British comedian Ricky Gervais.[8] The two bear cubs the Conservation Officer Service ordered killed were successfully rehabilitated and released by North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre.[9]

Judicial Review[edit]

The decision of a Conservation Officer to kill a healthy, potentially orphaned bear cub, before even seeing him or evaluating him and with full knowledge that a wildlife rehabilitator was able and ready to accept the bear for rehabbing, lead to the launch of a series of complaints against the Conservation Officer Service, and ultimately, a petition for a judicial review with the Supreme Court. The Conservation Officer Service reviewed the initial complaint internally, and then reviewed the final decision internally, as well. Both stated that the officer acted within the scope of his authority to kill the bear cub.[10] The complaint was initiated by the witness who found the bear cub originally and wildlife non-profit The Fur-Bearers.[11]

Handling and killing of bears[edit]

Accounts of bears being tranquilized and dying,[12] falling out of trees,[13][14] and the high number of bear cubs (bears of the year) killed compared to sent to rehabilitation[15] have resulted in numerous media articles and critical questions about protocol, decision-making, and oversight. Another incident involving a bear who was cornered by a Conservation Officer on a marina and not given a means of escape is under examination in media[16] and throughout social media. The officer responsible in this case is the same officer who ordered Officer Bryce Casavant to kill two bear cubs.[17]


  1. ^ Conservation Officer Service - 100 Years of Service (1980) Archived 2014-11-23 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ COS Program Plan Archived May 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Conservation Officer, Field Operations Job Descriptions Archived August 30, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Conservation Officer Service 100 Years of Service
  5. ^ Conservation Officer Service - 100 Years of Service (1905) Archived September 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Conservation Officer Service - 100 Years of Service (1980) Archived 2014-11-23 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "B.C. conservation officer suspended after refusing to kill bear cubs". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  8. ^ "Ricky Gervais tweets support for suspended conservation officer Bryce Casavant". Global News. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  9. ^ "Bear cubs saved by conservation officer released to Vancouver Island wilderness". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  10. ^ Pynn, ,Larry. "Animal-welfare group launches court challenge of B.C. bear-kill policy". Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  11. ^ "The Fur-Bearers challenge cub killing in judicial review". The Fur-Bearers. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  12. ^ Barrett, Brandon. "Bear cub dies after being captured during Whistler Ironman". Pique. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  13. ^ "Bear in Kelowna falls 40 feet from tree after being tranquilized; later euthanized". Global News. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  14. ^ "Black bear sighting scares Burnaby school and neighbourhood". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  15. ^ Pynn, ,Larry. "Conservation officers kill more small bear cubs than take to rehab centres, new stats reveal". Retrieved 2017-08-28.
  16. ^ "UPDATE: Conservation officer felt black bear posed too great a risk - Campbell River Mirror". Campbell River Mirror. 2017-09-08. Retrieved 2017-09-13.
  17. ^ "Mike Newton ordered Bryce Casavant to kill BC bear cubs: unredacted emails". Retrieved 2017-09-13.