Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

November 14, 2013 14:43 ET

Province Proposes Pilot Project to Address Problem Bear Issue in Some Areas of Northern Ontario

Management of bear populations by science, not emotion, long overdue

PETERBOROUGH, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Nov. 14, 2013) - Fourteen years after the Harris Conservatives cancelled the spring bear hunt under pressure from animal rights activists, the Wynne Liberal government is proposing a two-year pilot project in eight wildlife management units in northern Ontario to address problem bear issues.

"Ontario's spring bear hunt was a successful wildlife population management tool that assisted in maintaining the density of bears at levels that minimized dangerous encounters between people and bears, and controlled the population at a sustainable level. This was good for public safety and good for bears," said OFAH Executive Director Angelo Lombardo.

"Since the cancellation of the spring bear hunt in 1999, the OFAH has been advocating for a return of the hunt and we are pleased that the provincial government has finally recognized the value of this valuable wildlife management tool and has proposed a bear management program in response to problem bears in northern Ontario. While this is not the restoration of a full spring hunt, it is a positive start, and the OFAH looks forward to working with the provincial government and local municipalities so that the full benefits of regulated hunting can be realized," Lombardo added.

The absence of a spring bear hunt has created a severe public safety risk, with five bear attacks being reported across the province this year. Before its cancellation, the spring bear hunt also generated over $40 million per year in economic activity and sustained a number of jobs in northern Ontario, jobs that have since flowed to the neighbouring provinces of Manitoba and Quebec which continued to have hunts.

"The OFAH has been unwavering in its position that the spring bear hunt is a valuable wildlife management tool that enhances public safety and controls the bear population at optimum levels. The recent introduction of Bill 114 by Liberal MPP Bill Mauro has served to focus attention on this growing problem," said Lombardo.

The proposed program would take place from May 1 to June 15 in wildlife management units 13, 14, 29, 30, 36, 41 and 42, where high levels of problem bear activity have been reported. The hunt would be open to Ontario residents only, will not allow the hunting of cubs or female bears with cubs and would require municipalities in those areas to opt-in to the program. The proposal will be subject to public comments on Ontario's Environmental Registry.

With over 100,000 members, subscribers and supporters, and 710 member clubs, the OFAH is the province's largest nonprofit, fish and wildlife conservation-based organization, and the VOICE of anglers and hunters. For more information, visit www.ofah.org.

OPEN LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Benefits of the Spring Bear Hunt

Terry Quinney, PhD.

Provincial Manager

Fish and Wildlife Services

Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

This week's bear attack near Peterborough is an important reminder to people and provincial politicians in particular, (because bear management is provincial responsibility) of the benefits of a spring bear hunt.

Ontario's spring bear hunt was a successful wildlife population management tool to assist in maintaining the abundance and density of bears at levels that minimized dangerous encounters between people and bears. On average, about 4,000 bears were harvested annually in the spring bear hunt, and about 70% of these were male bears.

Used in combination with a fall bear hunt, this two-pronged bear management system reduced bear densities, particularly male bears, and assisted in the control of the size of the bear population. This reduced aggression and cannibalism by male bears on other bears, predation on other species, such as deer fawns and moose calves, and reduced bear problems with people including reducing the probability of dangerous encounters with bears. So, the spring bear hunt provided benefits to people and society, and minimized costs associated with problem bears. The spring bear hunt was an excellent proven example of sustainable development in practice, where the benefits from a renewable natural resource were being maximized and costs to people and society minimized.

With no spring bear hunt, there are now more problem bears in the spring, summer, and early fall because there are more bears in the population. There are more aggressive, cannibalistic males in the woods that cause other bears to avoid them and thus, for example, seek food in other areas near people such as towns and cities. Berry crop shortages or failures worsen these effects. Female bears with cubs searching for food sources in the woods, but needing to avoid cannibalistic male bears, are forced to find food from or near people.

Other methods to try and address problems with bears have failed. For example, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), trapping relocation of problem bears has a failure rate of 80% for adult bears of either sex.

So, proper wildlife management requires a spring hunt as it relates to reducing harmful interactions with humans, supplying benefits to people and society, but also as it relates to maintaining bear populations at levels more consistent with long-term average food supplies for the bears themselves.

The cancellation of the spring bear hunt was not only bad for people and public safety, it was also bad for the bear population. The hunt provided wholesome food, valuable hides, and rewarding hunting experiences for thousands of hunters each year; it generated over $40 million every year and sustained many jobs (all of which have flowed to our neighbours in Manitoba and Quebec because they continue to have spring bear hunts). Hunting black bears in the spring was a valuable wildlife management technique that successfully reduced bear densities, especially of adult male bears, thereby reducing cannibalism on other bears and problems for people.

Contact Information

  • Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
    Dr. Terry Quinney
    Provincial Manager, Fish and Wildlife Services
    (705) 748-6324 ext. 242
    terry_quinney@ofah.org

    Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
    Greg Farrant
    Manager, Government Affairs & Policy
    (705) 748-6324 ext. 236 or (705) 875-0274 (cell)
    greg_farrant@ofah.org
    www.ofah.org