Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters

August 17, 2007 14:34 ET

STOP Wasting Ontario's Bears!

An Open Letter to Dalton McGuinty, John Tory and Howard Hampton

Attention: Environment Editor, News Editor A LETTER TO ALL ONTARIO NEWSPAPER EDITORS:--(Marketwire - Aug. 17, 2007) - An Open Letter to Dalton McGuinty, John Tory and Howard Hampton

STOP WASTING ONTARIO'S BEARS!

Dear Editor:

The recent discovery of a government bear body dump in Timmins where 'nuisance' bears, including cubs, were left to rot is shocking in its own right, but sadly, this reflects a much larger provincial crisis in wildlife management that all three political parties must address.

The appalling reality is that in recent years, thousands of black bears have been shot and wasted by government officers, police and landowners in defense of private property, or in the interests of public safety. It's anyone's guess as to how many bear cubs have been orphaned, or as in the case of the Timmins example, also shot, because their mothers were labeled as 'nuisance' animals. The number is certainly far in excess of any possible threat to cubs that existed when the spring hunt was still in effect.

Bears were once highly respected game animals, when their population was carefully managed on the basis of science accompanied by a regulated spring hunt. They are now relegated to being little more than pests or vermin, the very thing the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, the largest non-profit conservation organization in Ontario, warned against when the spring hunt was cancelled.

The Harris government was misled by the animal rights community, who coerced them into cancelling the spring hunt, ostensibly to 'prevent the orphaning of cubs' (even though it was already illegal to shoot a cub or a lactating sow, and there was no evidence ever produced to verify that hunters orphaned even one cub). Today, the responsibility for doing the right thing lies at the doorstep of all three parties, who have a shared responsibility to step up and address the 'nuisance' bear issue head on.

It's time that all three party leaders acknowledge that the cancellation of the spring hunt was a colossal mistake. The cancellation of the spring hunt was never about protecting cubs, it was about a well-funded animal rights groups seeking publicity at the expense of those with a vested interest in bear conservation, scientific population management and sustainable harvest.

The science never supported the cancellation of the spring bear hunt. In fact, in a recently published paper, two eminent bear biologists, one from the Manitoba Department of Conservation, the other from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, concluded that based upon clear population goals, more hunting of bears, not less, is needed to avoid costly and dangerous bear encounters. In Ontario, that means adding a spring hunt in many areas.

It's time for all three political parties to acknowledge that political expediency was the sole reason for the cancellation of the spring bear hunt, and that neither bears nor the residents of Ontario are better off. Eight years after an unprecedented departure from scientific bear management, there are more bears being orphaned than were ever threatened by the spring hunt; nuisance bear complaints have skyrocketed across the province; bear damage to crops and livestock has increased; millions have been spent on the 'Bear Wise' program which manages people's interaction with bears and not the animals themselves; the number of nuisance bear calls are increasing at an alarming rate; bear sightings are occurring in areas normally not known for bear populations and an independent review questions the province's data by suggesting that the number of bears in the province may be twice what it was 12 years ago.

All three party leaders should agree that it's time to restore common sense and science to wildlife management, to take stock of the bear population and to once again manage the bear population on the basis of science, not rhetoric. In some cases, this will entail a reduction in the number of bears to achieve a healthy and sustainable population. This is something that can't be avoided, and should be achieved using an accurate population estimate and a regulated hunt carried out by people who value the animal and are morally outraged at seeing bears being shot and thrown into dumps to rot.

Yours in Conservation,

Ed Reid
Wildlife Biologist
Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
/For further information: Ed Reid
O.F.A.H. Biologist
(705) 748-6324
ed_reid@ofah.org/ IN: ENVIRONMENT, POLITICS

Contact Information

  • Robert J. Pye, O.F.A.H. Communications Coordinator, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
    Primary Phone: 705-748-6324 ext. 267
    Secondary Phone: 705-313-1700
    E-mail: robert_pye@ofah.org