Bears in Ontario need your voice, following an announcement by the Liberal government that they plan to extend and expand the controversial spring bear hunt.
Minister of Natural Resources Bill Mauro cited public safety (human-bear conflicts) and hunting as tourism as the reasons for expanding the hunt, which concluded a two-year, limited area pilot this spring. This comes following two years of Mauro claiming a spring bear hunt was only about reducing human-bear conflicts.
The hunt was cancelled in 1999 due to evidence that many cubs were being orphaned and environmental concerns over the use of bait to draw bears to a kill site. It should be noted that the fall hunt of bears has continued without fail since that time, and will continue presently.
But within days of the announcement that the government intends to expand the hunt to all of Northern Ontario for five years, massive criticism from surprising sources arose.
The Northern Policy Institute – a conservative organization bent on pursuing economic growth in the less accessible parts of Ontario – has again stated that the return of the spring bear hunt would be beneficial for the economy, but would have no impact on human-bear conflict. This is echoed by provincial data and a committee that studied the issue prior to the last pilot-project launching.
And the province’s Environmental Commissioner’s annual report, coincidentally released within days of the province’s plan to expand the spring bear hunt, reamed the province for the spring bear hunt.
Commissioner Dianne Saxe noted that a committee was created in 2003 to determine if the spring bear hunt played a role in reducing bear conflict; the committee determined unequivocally that it did not influence conflict and recommended aggressive messaging and policy on feeding and attractants. The government launched a program the following year – Bear Wise – to address these concerns. Since its inception, the program began suffering from cutbacks until today, where it remains as no more than a website with some advice for those facing conflict.
The report also outlined that the Ministry failed to adopt several of their own staff’s measures to prevent significant loss of female bears and orphaning of cubs during the pilot project of the spring hunt.
“The [Environmental Commissioner’s Office] finds it disturbing that the ministry would ignore almost all the conditions suggested by its own Nuisance Bear Review Committee for a re-instated spring hunt,” the report states. “Furthermore, the [Environmental Commissioner’s Office] is troubled that the MNRF’s reported reasons for implementing the pilot project seem to be undermined by recent research by its own scientists and staff.
"In summary, in implementing the pilot project, the MNRF: made a bear management decision with incomplete information on the annual harvest; ignored ministry research that calls into question the utility of the pilot project; and disregarded the advice of the committee the ministry struck to review the nuisance bear issue,” the report concludes. “The ministry has also cut back its public education Bear Wise program, even though communities and residents still have much to do in eliminating or reducing attractants for bears. The ECO urges the MNRF to listen to informed experts, review relevant research and implement human-bear conflict solutions that are actually supported by evidence, science and experience.”
It is clear that every person or organizational that does not have a financial stake in the spring bear hunt objects to the spring bear hunt for a combination of ethical and scientific reasons. Yet the government intends to force the issue and open up Northern Ontario as killing fields for our bears.
The Environmental Registry – the formal portal through which people can comment on proposed environmental policy – has opened and will be open until November 30. We urge you to comment on this barbaric policy with the facts in our blog and on the OntarioSpringBearHunt.ca website. If you don’t live in Ontario, please note in your comments that the province will lose your eco-tourism dollars as a result of this policy.
You can also write to Minister of Natural Resources Bill Mauro (email@example.com) and your own local MPP (find your Ontario MPP), who will want to know what you have to say about this hunt.
Please forward any correspondence you may receive from your local MPP to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.