It is expected that Ontario Minister of Natural Resources, David Orazietti will announce a re-introduction of the spring bear hunt imminently. This will be the third attack of the Wynne government's War on Wildlife.
The first was the rollback of endangered species legislation in July 2013 as outlined by Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller at Queens Park last week. In the summer of 2013, the Bear Wise program was reduced to just a phone hotline. Finally, a return to the spring bear hunt, which was cancelled in 1999.
Mike McIntosh, President of Bear With Us – Sanctuary and Rehabilitation Centre for Bears (near Sprucedale Ontario) observed, "Despite recent statement made to the contrary by the Minister that the spring bear hunt would not be reinstated – there is every reason to believe the government will flip-flop and the hunt will return."
He went on to say, "I am confused, if the intent is to control nuisance bears why is the spring hunt needed?" Every year since 2000, over 5,000 bears have been killed annually in the Fall-only hunt. In the last year of the combined season hunt (1998) the kill hovered around the 4,000 mark. In simple terms, more bears are now being killed in the Fall-only hunt than in the last year of the combined season hunt in 1998.
In an effort to offload the controversy and cost onto local governments, it appears that Minister Orazietti and the Wynne Liberals will download the responsibility to municipalities to “deal with their bear problems as they see fit.” With this authority, Municipalities will be able to sanction a spring bear hunt in their communities.
An 850-person sample Poll of Ontarians completed on November 12th, 2013 by Sudbury-based Oracle Poll Research shows that orphaning tiny bear cubs in the Spring remains a hot button topic.
Half of respondents or 50% oppose the reinstatement of the spring bear hunt compared to only 26% that support it, while 24% are undecided. Support for the reinstatement was highest in the north (67%) and lowest in Toronto/metro (16%), eastern Ontario (12%) and the GTA (18%). Province-wide, more PC voters support the reinstatement (37%) in relation to Liberal (22%) and NDP (18%) voters. There is also a gender split with more males (37%) being in support compared to females (18%).
In 1999, the spring bear hunt was cancelled after Ministry staff revealed that over 270 bear cubs were orphaned each year and left to starve to death as a direct result of the hunt. “From personal experience I know that before the Ontario spring hunt was cancelled, we were caring for cubs orphaned in the spring. However, most cubs are orphaned by hunters are in remote areas and never found or recorded,” observed Mike McIntosh.
The Oracle Poll showed 80% of respondents had an unfavourable opinion of the fact that orphaned bears cubs result from the spring hunt. 71% have an unfavorable opinion of bear baiting (bears are lured to buckets of bait often foodstuffs and shot by hunters located in tree stands or blinds as they feed) compared to only 20% that have a favorable opinion of this technique, while 9% did not know or were unsure. Those most holding an unfavorable opinion were females (85%), urban residents (76%) and NDP backers (85%). On the other hand, the highest favorable scores were from northern residents (50%) those from central Ontario (43%), PC voters (33%), males (37%) and rural residents (28%).
“Less than three months ago, Minister Orazietti said that he was not considering the reinstatement of the spring hunt” said McIntosh. He concluded, “Now I guess the Minister, Premier and the Liberal Caucus thinks that orphaning cubs is OK even though the majority of Ontarians do not.”
Photo by Mike McIntosh/Bear With Us Sanctuary