Appeared in the North Shore News – July 17, 2015
What moves you, heart and soul?
Is it, among recent top news stories, Greece? Drought? Fiery forests? Senate sleaze? The long-running drama Health Researcher Follies? Bus Stop, starring TransLink? Stock market tremors? Cracked China? Interest rates? Pan Am Games, Canadians modestly accepting that they’re No. 1?
No, none of the above.
By far the most gripping story — this is the democratic, straight-from-the-heart voice of the people talkin’, 152,000 people signing a petition as of last weekend supporting a conservation officer who refused to follow orders — concerns two orphaned bear cubs. Their momma was shot, guilty of raiding freezers for food.
Mankind is a sentimental beast. A paradox, as they say. God’s riddle, as Alexander Pope said. Meat-eaters, leather-shod, we put in our day at the salt mines and return to watch TV that adores ending newscasts with a touching, heartstring-plucking, often funny animal story. Bony horses rescued from frozen wastelands.
Misguided cows hoisted from sloughs. Whales coaxed back to safe waters. Heavily bandaged men urging no retribution, it wasn’t the animal’s fault that they wandered into their habitat. Dogs that take the bus themselves and get the best seat. Cats trained to teach Aristotelian philosophy.
Think what you will of Conrad Black, you would think differently reading his compassionate story of his expensive rescue on his property of someone’s kitten from under earth’s crust.
Can we talk? A few years ago a rat entered our abode through a pipe hole. I silently prayed he was a bachelor or widower. When I suggested live-trapping and release, the pest control guy took me for a dangerous madman. You kidding me? For a rat?
A conventional trap was set. One evening I heard the triumphant thunk of the sprung trap. And then something else. A long, agonizing death cry — who would believe that a wail like a baby’s could come from a rat’s throat? I hear it yet, I hear it yet.
The two cubs in the current news story were not destroyed by conservation officer Bryce Casavant as ordered by his rules-reading superiors — imagine, a conservation officer who actually conserved.
Most don’t, most of the time. Larry Pynn, the Vancouver Sun’s excellent outdoors writer, dug up the accusing numbers: In the past four years 352 cougars, 1,872 black bears and 75 grizzlies were killed in B.C. — the relocation numbers being six, 126 and 24 respectively. A scathing indictment: Retired Idaho biologist John Beecham said no jurisdiction he knows of “takes such a cavalier attitude about killing conflict bears as B.C.”
Casavant transported the cubs to a vet’s. Named Jordan and Athena, they’re now at the North Island Wildlife Recovery refuge. Casavant was uncompassionately suspended without pay.
At this writing the 152,000 online petitioners demand his reinstatement. The story, in newsroom jargon, has legs, and at this reading may be overtaken by events, since Environment Minister Mary Polak is under much pressure (I’d bet her private view doesn’t match her official one).
Lighthouse Park and other West Vancouver nature areas are currently festooned with bear-warning signs. A few years ago a beautifully fit woman who walked Cypress municipal park twice a day told me she’d seen 19 bears that year, likely the same few bears again and again.
Having myself walked the Cypress trail occasionally for 30 years, I developed my own patented bear-warning device. I whistle the nursery song “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.” Not once have I been approached by a bear, and if you heard the quality of my whistling you wouldn’t be surprised. Human beings also give me a wide berth.
• • •
Subtleness is not West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith’s strong suit. He flatly opposed the Yes side in the TransLink plebiscite, joined by two other of Metro’s 21 mayors, who clearly had nobody on their side except the voters. Each of the three North Shore municipalities turned down the $7.5-billion plan by about the same margin, 55 per cent.
The inquest into the plebiscite failure has many far-seeing Yes-side oracles boldly predicting the past. They knew all along that the plan was too complex, that plebiscites rarely pass, that asking voters if they’d like to pay more taxes is as predictably answered as asking General Motors if it approves of cars.
By far the costliest project in the plebiscite package was a subway along Broadway to UBC. Constant Reader knows my shy generic opinion of such proposals, but to repeat: Preposterous. On Vancouver’s best days — free of rain, fog and forest fire smoke — there’s a sensational view of mountains and water. And you want to shoot transit riders through a hole in the ground?
Apart from that, West Broadway is in generally excellent business health, such as West Van’s Marine Drive can only dream of. Don’t mess with it.
© Trevor Lautens, 2015