The New Brunswick Wildlife Federation would like to see measures taken to increase the number of bear hunters in the province.

The black bear population in the province has grown by more than 40 per cent over the last eight years. It is estimated there are about 17,000 black bears in the province in 2013 compared with 12,000 in 2003.

Hunters missing

Outfitter Dale Robinson thinks the sluggish American economy in recent years has resulted in fewer Americans coming to New Brunswick to hunt bear. (CBC)

The wildlife federation approached the Department of Natural Resources last year to request that hunters be allowed to kill two bears on their licence.

But Ron Whitehead, the federation's president, said the provincial government turned down that request.

"He told us that there was a lot of pressure from international groups regarding the killing and harvesting of bears generally," said Whitehead.

"And some provinces, such as Ontario, have done away with their spring bear hunt because of a lot of pressure from anti-hunting groups."

While the bear population is increasing, the number of bear licences issued by the province is declining.

Last year, fewer than 5,000 bear hunting licences were issued. In the 1970s, the number of licences issued was about 12,500.

Dale Robinson, an outfitter with the Tratton Run Wilderness company, says the number of bear licences issued in New Brunswick has traditionally been bolstered by Americans coming north to hunt bear.

But fewer of those hunters are making the trip with the American economy struggling.

Traditional hunter

Bill Coleman has hunted most of his life and and seen many bears in the wild, but has never tried to shoot one. (CBC)

"It's a hunt that you know, that they don't have in the [United] States," said Robinson. 

"So it was appealing that way, they don't have a lot of black bear down there.

"And a lot of states don't have a spring hunt. So it's a very affordable hunt, they like the meat."

Bill Coleman, who attended the Atlantic Hunting and Fishing Expo in Sussex on the weekend, has been hunting most of his life.

But while he's seen many bears in the wild, he's never taken aim at one – nor is he about to.

"It was one of those things that probably most of the people I hunted with, bear never seemed to be on our list for some reason."