The Ontario government says it is taking steps to ensure a healthy and sustainable black bear population while supporting small businesses and jobs in Northern Ontario.
On Jan. 17, John Yakabuski, minister of natural resources and forestry, announced the start of government's consultation on a proposal to move to a regular annual spring black bear hunting season.
In 2014, Ontario introduced a spring black bear hunting season pilot that supported the sustainable hunting of black bears.
The spring black bear hunting season pilot has continued each year since then, and so the province is proposing to make the pilot a regular annual spring season, subject to annual review.
"Ontario is home to a healthy bear population," said Yakabuski in a news release.
"The province will continue to monitor black bear populations, harvest results, and sustainability indicators to inform an annual review and ensure bear populations are managed sustainably."
As part of this proposal, all protections for Ontario's black bear population would remain in place. For example, it would remain illegal to harvest black bear cubs and females with cubs in the spring, a crime that carries a potential fine of up to $25,000 and up to one-year imprisonment.
The spring black bear hunting pilot has been well received by northern communities and the tourism and hunting industries that support small businesses and jobs in Northern and rural Ontario, according to the release.
The proposal to implement a regular season was recommended by the Big Game Management Advisory Committee, which also held a meeting in North Bay in May as one of six stops across the province.
"We are listening to the concerns of northern Ontarians and the tourism industry that an ongoing pilot spring season creates economic uncertainty," said Yakabuski.
"A regular, monitored spring bear hunting season would enable tourism outfitters and camp owners to better plan their operations for the entire year, while also allowing hunters to better plan their activities and support local businesses."
The province is also proposing updates to black bear regulations:
- eliminating special black bear hunting opportunities for non-resident landowners and non-residents hunting with immediate relatives;
- requiring people guiding resident bear hunters for commercial purposes to obtain a "Licence to Provide Black Bear Hunting Services."
Each year, approximately 25,000 bear licences are sold, providing $2.4 million in revenue used to support fish and wildlife management.
In 2017, black bear hunters in Ontario spent approximately $50.6 million in hunting-related purchases.
This story originally appeared on BayToday.ca.