The province is considering an expansion of the spring black bear hunt pilot it introduced in 2014.
On Oct. 30, the Ontario government announced it was expanding the pilot “to gather further information to assess concerns voiced by Northern communities about human-bear conflicts, and to support economic growth and tourism in Northern Ontario.”
The annual spring bear hunt was cancelled in 1999 among concerns that the black bear population was declining after the killing of too many mother bears was leaving cubs orphaned and vulnerable.
The controversial move was championed by wildlife advocates, but decried by hunting outfitters and enthusiasts, who argued that cancelling spring bear hunt would negatively impact tour operators’ livelihoods, while taking away a mechanism for responsibly managing the bear population.
In 2014, Premier Kathleen Wynn reintroduced a two-year “bear management pilot program,” held from May 1 to June 15 in response to concerns about nuisance bears and public safety. It is open to the communities of Timmins, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay.
If approved, the expansion of the bear hunt pilot would extend the pilot by five years through to 2020; apply to all 88 wildlife management units that currently have a fall bear hunt; and apply to non-resident hunters.
Under the proposed expansion, it would still be illegal to hunt bear cubs and females with cubs, and violators could face a fine of up to $25,000 and one year of imprisonment.
The proposed expansion is now available for public comment on the Ontario Environmental Registry website.
Currently across Canada, each province and territory with black bears has a spring and fall bear hunt except Nova Scotia and Ontario, which only have fall hunts.