Mixed messages on bears from Ontario MNR

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is doing their part to reduce human-bear conflict this spring. But their mixed messaging may not be as effective as they had hoped.

The government organization posted and “boosted” or paid for increased visibility an information graphic on Facebook this week.

“Bird feeders are bear feeders,” the main image states boldly. The attached copy told viewers to “Remind your neighbours to put away their bird feeders this summer. Let birds and bears dine in nature, not in your neighbourhood.”

The messaging is something we can mostly agree with – in the right context. When black bears are hungry, they’ll see a bird feeder as a hanging snack bar. Bird feeders can also attract birds of prey (owls, hawks, and falcons who prey on smaller birds attracted to bird feeders), and the seed can also attract small rodents – which in turn attract predators like foxes, coyotes, and feral cats.

A bird feeder that isn’t kept clean and is an area exposed to larger predatory animals can be problematic and needs to be addressed. But we also know simply telling the general public that bird feeders are bad without this context or explanation really just irritates them – as can be seen with humourous results on the MNR’s Facebook post.

What is also funny – but in more of a sinister way – is that while the MNR is telling well-meaning wildlife lovers to put away the bird feeders, they’re also letting hunters bait black bears year round.

That’s right – as part of the reintroduced spring bear hunt, bear baiting is allowed with few restrictions. While a bird feeder is being viewed as a weapon of evil, intentionally drawing bears to areas near communities year round is business as usual.

It’s nice to know the government is using online educational tools to help mitigate conflict. But it’d be better if they looked at the inherent flaws within their own policies.


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