For many years now there has been an ongoing problem of birds of prey being harassed by unethical photographers in the Metro Vancouver region, particularly in the salt marshes of Boundary Bay and Brunswick Point. Recently the problem has been especially serious in the Brunswick Point area. For example just in the past week photos have been taken by ethical birders witnessing violators off-trail, out in the marsh, getting as close as possible to perched Short-eared Owls. The violators show no concern for how their unethical actions affect the birds. They have been observed many times approaching as close as possible on foot, throwing sticks or rocks, shouting, or making loud noises to flush the birds just to try and get a perfect flight shot. Those photographers are only focused on their own best interests. The best interests of the birds are ignored.
So if you feel you are witnessing obvious wildlife harassment anywhere, there is a phone number you can call to report it while you are still on-site. (This is covered on page 254 of the current edition of “The Birder’s Guide to Vancouver”.) The proper authority to contact is the: Conservation Officer Service Reporting Line at 1-877-952-7277, or #7277 on your cell phone.
You will be asked to provide as many key details as possible, including date, time, location and licence plate. Photos and videos of violators and their vehicles can also be very helpful. While the well-being of the birds is obviously important, so is your own. Therefore do not put your own safety at risk in a situation like this, by confronting the violator – contact the Conservation Officer.
One of the reasons the violators know they can often get away with harassing the birds, is because there are not enough Conservation Officers to witness the violations. During the current COVID crisis, the top priority for government funding is obviously to support people, companies and various types of organizations. Therefore it’s not reasonable for birders to expect the province to spend money on hiring more Conservation Officers at this time. However what is reasonable is to ask the government to have the Conservation Officers increase their patrols of the Brunswick Point area for the next couple of months and decrease their routine patrols of other areas which don’t have known violations. The B.C. Conservation Officer Service is overseen by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. The current Minister is the Honorable George Heyman and his email is:ENV.Minister@gov.bc.ca
If enough people email him and ask him to please prioritize the Conservation Officers’ patrols in the Brunswick Point area for at least a month or two, it will hopefully result in more enforcement.