Regular readers of this paper will recall the story of the young male cougar that was euthanized in the Fairmont Hot Springs region earlier this summer. This paper chronicled the story along with a photograph that gave me some concern. I thought the group photo, which featured a multi-generational family as well as one of the BC Wildlife Conservation Officers involved in the euthanization operation, as distasteful. All that was missing, I thought to myself, was the dead animals carcass. It had all the appearance of a trophy hunt photo.
My assumption was wrong. In fact, not only were numerous photos, with all the subjects involved, taken, but they all included the dead animal.
This was all done, one would assume, with the authorization and participation of the BC Conservation Officers involved. It has also come to light that members of the family were touching the dead animal, holding up its paws for comparison shots with their hands, and doing other selfie shots. This behaviour should be called out for what it is. Firstly: the family with their entitled behaviour hiking down the trail after numerous warnings and signs posted. They were essentially baiting the animal and they got their wish. All of their participation after the animal was euthanized is reprehensible. Shame on all of them!
Secondly: The BC Conservation Officers behaviour after the animal had been professionally euthanized was unprofessional and unethical. Why would you allow any member of the public access to the dead animal? Are you guides on a Trophy Hunt? They should be disciplined to the full extent under the terms of their employment.
Thirdly: Finally, the publisher, editor, reporter, and any other member of staff who knowingly participated in this distasteful story. Granted, the story needed to be told, but no photo was required. Your paper is complicit in this undignified treatment of the cougar after his demise. A public apology is due.
Im waiting. We are all waiting.
Editors note: The Pioneer contacted Invermere Conservation Officer Greg Kruger to verify that the information presented in this letter was accurate. Here is his reply: We spent time with the group because there were lots of young children involved. We were asked by those parents to explain to their children why certain animals have to die, because it was hard for them and hard for the children, moreso for the children, to understand the death. We spent time with that animal after it happened as a public education for that family affected by the whole event, as it was quite stressful for them. We werent there high fiving and posing with the trophy. That wasnt the case. Everybody touched it, and we showed them the claws, we showed them the teeth, we showed them all about the anatomy and biology of cougars, talked about natural cougar behaviour versus this type of behaviour and then the group wanted a picture with a Conservation Officer and the cougar basically to remember their near miss with a cougar so they wouldnt forget and Im sure they never will. They were a couple of families not from Canada and they just couldnt believe what had happened. A couple of the neighbours came over. Everybody seemed to appreciate what we did, but of course youre going to have people who dont agree, who dont want to see an animal dead. Its not a part of our job we enjoy doing, but public safety is paramount for the Conservation Officer Service when it comes to people encountering wildlife in and around our communities. When we are put in a position where an animal is euthanized, we find more value in taking the time to educate the public as to why the animal was destroyed versus hiding the fact that an animal was killed. We want to use these unfortunate events to educate so whenever possible they can be prevented from occurring again.