While it may seem to residents that B.C. conservation officers are only concerned with bears, they often have to wear many hats. In addition, they have very similar authority to RCMP or municipal police. (Image from Facebook)

The many hats of a B.C. conservation officer

Not just the “bear police,” conservation officers have similar authority to RCMP

While this time of year B.C.’s conservation officers are usually busy dealing with bear encounters, this is just one small aspect of what their duties entail.

According to David Cox, with B.C. Conservation Officer Services out of Penticton, no two days on the job are the same. He said that because of the training COs receive, they can assist in multiple law enforcement areas as well as search and rescue and wildfire efforts.

“In the 10 years that I have been doing this a lot has changed. Focuses have shifted, priorities have shifted, new legislation has come in so we wear different hats,” said Cox. “It’s always adapting and changing with the times. The role of a CO is quite broad, it’s not the same thing over and over every day.”

“It’s definitely getting busier right now for sure. We’re dealing with a lot of illegal dumping files right now, obviously with spring cleaning and people moving,” said Cox in response to how his past few weeks have been. “It kind of goes hand-in-hand with people dumping miscellaneous junk out in the bush, and it leaves us to piece together the investigation and deal with that.”

READ MORE: Tossed beer can takes B.C. conservation officers to unlicensed guns

Cox said residents can face fines of $575 for illegal dumping and, in some cases, even a court appearance where they can face a heftier fine amount. He also explained that depending on the type of substances dumped and how long it remains there without being cleaned up, the dumpee can face multiple fines.

“In terms of bear activity, it’s frustrating because we’re not getting a lot of buy-in from some of the local communities. A lot of residents are just not buying into managing their garbage and argue, ‘Well I’ve lived here for 10 or 15 years and this has never happened to me.’ That’s gotta stop,” said Cox. “We need people to take measures ahead of time to stop this conflict. Because ultimately, a fed bear is a dead bear.”

May long weekend is around the corner and Cox anticipates it will be just as busy as ever for COs in terms of checking in on camper activity. He said they like to see people out and enjoying parks and recreation areas, so long as they behave themselves and respect the area they’re utilizing.

“Seasonally, our job changes. So this time of year we are also dealing with pesticides being put out there into the environment. So we need to make sure people are storing them and using them correctly,” said Cox. “We have another division within the ministry that specializes in that, but when they find non-compliance or there’s reports to our agency, we investigate those too to make sure everyone is safe.”

Cox said this time of year COs frequently attend to illegal burning calls, noting that there are certain days when controlled burns are allowed in certain areas, depending on the venting index.

“People tend to burn outside the venting index when it’s poor, so then the smoke settles in the valley and it’s bad for health,” said Cox. “And then sometimes prohibited items find their way into the fire as well, such as couches and all sorts of things so we have to investigate that a lot this time of year.”

READ MORE: B.C. conservation officers show alleged poachers unborn fawn after seizing pregnant deer

A little known fact is that COs have similar authority to RCMP and police officers, according to Cox. While their mandate is to protect environmental resources and “they don’t go out looking for other types of infractions”, it is not uncommon for a CO to issue tickets for non-environment-related offences.

“We rarely need to get RCMP involved when we run our own investigations. We work in joint partnership with them all the time, but more so with officer safety scenarios. So if we know we are out-numbered or a situation is dangerous than obviously the more bodies there the better,” said Cox. “We enforce 32 different acts and legislations, so we have the authority to write violation tickets, warnings, or what we call report to crown counsel. So we do all that as COs.

“COs are peace officers in the province of B.C., and we also have what is called special provincial constable status under the Police Act. So through that we have very similar authorities as RCMP and municipal policing.”

Cox said for example, they frequently come across reckless driving, stolen vehicles, and impaired drivers. He said they will still lean on the RCMP for those type of infractions though.

READ MORE: ‘Lots of meat’ left on poached elk: B.C. Conservation Officer

And if you think that conservation officers are only worried about what happens on land, Cox explained they enforce boating legislation much like RCMP. Not to mention the various specialty divisions within the ministry such as the predator attack team, the major crimes unit, and the controlled alien species team.

He added that another lesser-known fact about CO duties and relationships is that if a poacher is caught with illegal game, they have the authority to seize it as it is still property of the Crown. From there, any usable portions of meat are donated to local First Nations groups or food banks so as not to let it go to waste.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
JordynThomson 
Send Jordyn Thomson an email.
Like the Western News on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Pat McKenna, Habitat VIN's executive director and Alli Epp, Comox Valley Community engagement manager in front of Design Therapy, one of almost 200 businesses contributing to Bid to Build. Karen McKinnon Photo.
‘#BidToBuild’ auction launching to support affordable housing

Auction builds on last year’s successful effort, with new twists

Hope Rocks at the Campbell River Art Gallery highlighting local linguistic diversity.
Paint a rock to celebrate diversity

Hope Rocks highlighting linguistic diversity in Campbell River

Reflective number or design on hoodie. Police are seeking help in identifying three youth involved in an incident on Soderholm Road early June 12. Photo courtesy Campbell River RCMP
Do you know where your kids were at 1:24 a.m.?

Campbell River RCMP seeking help identifying three youths

John Hart Dam near Campbell River, B.C. BC Hydro photo
Campbell River watershed forecasts improve with rainfall

BC Hydro projects slightly higher resevoir levels and river flows after rainy May and June

North Island MLA Michele Babchuk. Photo contributed
COMMENTARY: MLA Michele Babchuk talks the future of forestry

‘These forests are important to every single one of us, myself included’

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Websit back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials watching U.K.’s Delta variant struggles, ‘may need to slow’ restart plan

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

Most Read