The spring black bear hunt instituted as a limited two-year pilot project in 2014 and expanded and extended for five years in 2016 may become a permanent fixture in Ontario unless enough opposition is rallied. Hear an in-depth interview with Ontario bear expert Mike McIntosh on our Defender Radio podcast (click here).
A Brief History
A spring season for hunting black bears was cancelled in 1999 when the Ontario Progressive Conservatives faced evidence of increased orphaning of bear cubs among other environmental concerns. In 2014 the season was reintroduced by the Ontario Liberals in response to alleged conflict in communities; by 2016, the government had changed their tune to the economic boon of such a hunt, with the alleged conflict as a secondary argument often not even acknowledged. Now, under the Ontario Progressive Conservatives once more, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is proposing that the spring black bear hunting season be made permanent.
There are a great deal of issues surrounding the existing spring bear hunt that have not been addressed appropriately. While The Fur-Bearers strongly oppose the spring bear hunt and believe it should be cancelled, there are issues that must be considered if it is to continue. The list below was created in conjunction with information from Bear With Us Sanctuary and Rehabilitation Centre for Bears in Ontario and Coyote Watch Canada.
- Females with cubs must be protected; currently that is difficult as cubs are frequently treed or kept away by their mother while she forages.
- The current season of May 1 to June 15 should be changed to June 1 to June 30 to protect females with cubs as well as the cubs themselves.
- Evidence as to the accomplishments and milestones of the pilot project and the extended pilot project (not the original strategy written before the hunts) need to be released to the public.
- Baiting should not take place; if it will, baiting must end when the season concludes and not begin again until shortly before the fall season and more stringent limits must be put in place to protect recreationalists, drivers, property owners, pets and others from bait piles that attract wildlife. All bait sites should be registered to ensure compliance.
- Information showing an increase in enforcement capability through funding, infrastructure and boots-on-the-ground hires of conservation officers should be made available.
- The government must make an acknowledgement that a spring bear hunt is not about community safety as originally stated in 2014 in the face of their own evidence showing it does not impact human conflict with bears; education and enforcement of human behaviour, attractants and feeding will have the greatest impact on mitigating and preventing conflict.
- A report should be created and released on the impact of a spring bear hunt on other recreationalists’ safety, freedom to explore and expectations, as bear hunters in the spring make up a very small percentage of people enjoying the outdoors in Ontario.
- A report should be created and released on efforts of the Ontario government to increase availability of non-consumptive ecotourism opportunities in the province alongside the limited spring bear hunt.
- The use of hounds/dogs to chase, tree and/or otherwise harass bears should be immediately halted.
What You Can Do
Comment on the Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO) site. The proposal and available rationale for it are made available on that page. Please write original content, but feel free to utilize the above concerns in drafting a message. Individualized responses have a lower chance of being grouped with others in evaluation of the overall comments.
Your voice matters. Please share this article with your friends and family in Ontario to help protect cubs and other bears from an unscientific and inhumane hunt.