A conservation officer who was suspended for refusing to kill two black bear cubs will now receive pay during the suspension, according to the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union.

The union tweeted the news Wednesday afternoon.

Bryce Casavant was dispatched to a home near Port Hardy, located near the northern tip of Vancouver Island, for reports of a black bear eating salmon from a freezer over the weekend.

Casavant killed the female bear because it had become habituated, and posed a risk to humans.

He was then told to euthanize the bear’s young cubs. However he refused, arguing there was no proof that the two bears were also habituated.

Instead, he tranquilized the animals and took them to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association, which specializes in reintroducing wild animals to their natural habitat.

The B.C. Conservation Service suspended Casavant for refusing to euthanize the cubs.

Initially, he was to be suspended without pay, but the government later announced he would remain on payroll during his suspension.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the B.C. Conservation Service’s acting deputy chief said the situation was unfortunate. However, he refused to comment more specifically on the case.

"It's a horrible situation to have to put down an animal of any kind," Chris Doyle said.

Environment Minister Mary Polak issued a statement on Tuesday calling the situation with Casavant "very sad and unfortunate."

"Although conservation officers must sometimes put down wild animals for the safety of the public and the welfare of the animal, we understand how difficult it is for all involved."

She added that conservation officers "provide the highest level of public safety and natural resource law enforcement service possible."

Polak said the government has launched an investigation into the details surrounding the suspension.

An online petition started by the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association demanding Casavant be reinstated had garnered more than 44,000 signatures by Wednesday afternoon.

Staff with the wildlife association say they trust the opinion of conservation officers when accepting animals and are stunned by the outcome.

"I think it's unbelievable. If you can't depend on him, there's nobody else," said Robin Campbell, the founder and manager of the association.

Other staff at the association say the bears are being introduced to other bear cubs and are settling in well.

Campbell says the bears have shown no sign of habituation and could be reintroduced to the wild as soon as next summer.

But Doyle said Wednesday that early assessments from a provincial veterinarian show the cubs may not be safe to release.

"Initial information is that the bears were exposed to conflict and they had some level of habituation," he said.

Doyle said the assessment of the cubs is ongoing, as is the investigation into the Casavant's actions.

With files from CTV Vancouver