In November the Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti announced the resumption of the spring bear hunt. In August he said the government was not considering the re-introduction of the spring bear hunt. The primary reason given for starting the spring bear hunt was public safety and reducing the number of nuisance or problem bears.
The spring bear hunt was cancelled in 1999 by the then Minister John Snobelen (Harris Conservative Government) on concerns that bear cubs were being orphaned and dying of starvation because their mothers were being killed. (The MNR estimated at least 274 cubs were orphaned in the last spring bear hunt in 1999). Female bears and their cubs are the most vulnerable in the spring after coming out of hibernation. A bear cub in the spring that is orphaned has almost no chance of survival and will die a slow painful death.
NO CREDITABLE REASON
There was or still is NO creditable scientific or factual information that the spring hunt has any impact on the number of nuisance bears. All the Ministry of Natural Resources information and other studies done in North America all lead to the conclusion that killing bears in the spring has no impact on the number of nuisance bears activity in communities. The black bear is the only big game with dependant young that will be hunted in the spring.
WHAT IS THE REAL DANGER
The issue of public safety to potential attacks has been blown way out of proportion by the media and supported by a small vocal group of special interests in the province. Bear encounters and attacks have been sensationalized by the media and have created an unrealistic fear of bears.
There have only been 7 black bear attacks resulting in deaths by 4 male bears in over 100 years in Ontario. By comparison from 1964 to 2010 there were 12 fatal attacks by dogs in Ontario according to the Canine Research Council. Many of the bear encounters reported as attacks are “bluff charges” resulting in no physical contact with the person. There has never been a black bear attack resulting in a fatality within a community anywhere in Canada. Of the few black bear attacks in North America over half have involved unleashed dogs.
EDUCATION IS THE SOLUTION
The Ministry of Natural Resources Bear Wise program is one of the best most comprehensive and effect programs of its type anywhere in North America. Where it properly implemented and managed on a Provincial & Local level it has dramatically reduced the nuisance bear problem. Nuisance bears are primarily a function of food. Over 2/3 of all “nuisance bear” activity is related to garbage. If easy access to human garbage is stopped the bears move on. All studies and statistics have repeatly shown the only way of reducing nuisance bears is through public education NOT in killing bears. The spring bear hunt will not improve public safety and it will cause hundreds of bear cubs to die a slow painful death in the wilds.
HOW ARE THEY KILLED
A primary way that bears are killed in the spring bear hunt is through baiting. A month before the spring bear hunt starts human food is put out at the shooting site. Bears have an excellent sense of smell and are especially hungry after coming out of hibernation. They are trained to come to the site for food. Once the spring bear hunt starts, the hunters sit behind blinds and shoot the bears. (more target practice then hunting). Despite the fact that hunters are not suppose to kill females with cubs, a lot are. A mother would seldom take her cubs to the baiting site and at 50 to 100 yards it is difficult to tell the difference between males and females.
The spring bear hunt should NOT be allowed for the following reasons:
- There is NO evidence that a spring bear hunt will reduce the number of “problem bears”
- Shooting bears in the spring, when they are vulnerable, hungry, and still have dependent cubs, is unethical.
- Education, and changing human behavior is the only way proven to reduce negative interactions with bears. Shooting bears is not the answer.