Hunters lobby for increase to bear harvest
New Brunswick Wildlife Federation says change could boost economy
The New Brunswick Wildlife Federation is lobbying the Department of Natural Resources to boost the limit on the number of bears that can be shot in hunting season to two animals from one.
Charlie Leblanc, the federation’s president, said fewer hunters from outside New Brunswick have been coming to the province and that's led to an increase in the bear population.
He said the annual bear harvest now is about 1,500 bears and if the provincial government accepts the proposed change, it's anticipated an extra 250 to 400 bears would be killed each year.
Leblanc said the number would be closely monitored.
"If the harvest was to increase, and the population are suffering then it has to be on a year-to-year [basis]. You cannot over-harvest,” he said.
Leblanc said increasing the bear limit to two would likely bring in more hunters and help boost the economy.
"Recently there's been an economic downturn in the U.S. We have less hunters coming to New Brunswick harvesting bear. So our population is creeping up," he said.
"What we've asked the government is ... if we needed to control that population, us, the provincial hunters, could maintain that herd by harvesting two animals."
He said it could also cut down on bear-vehicle collisions and bear intrusions into residential areas. In 2013, 124 bears were killed by motor vehicles and 29 were deemed nuisance animals and were shot.
An official with Natural Resources says the request by the wildlife federation is being considered.
The spring rifle season is from April 15 to June 29 and the fall rifle season is from Oct. 1 to Nov. 2. There is also a fall archery season from Sept. 9 to 21.
Hunters killed 1,566 black bears in 2013. Of those animals, 1,046 bears were killed in the spring season, 378 were shot in the fall rifle season and 95 were taken during the fall archery season.
There were 5,303 black bear licences sold in 2013, a slight increase from 2012. There were 3,485 licences sold to residents and 1,818 licences sold to non-residents.
The number of black bear licences sold to non-residents has been falling steadily since 2004 when 3,609 were issued. However, the number of licences sold to residents has been increasing almost every year since 2002 when 1993 when 1,022 were sold.
Since the department started recording black bear harvest statistics, the fewest number of bears hunted in one year was 352 in 1981 and the largest harvest was 2,227 in 2004.
A provincial government report estimated there should be more than 16,000 bears in the province in 2014.
The wildlife federation's request for an expanded bear hunt comes shortly after Natural Resources Minister Paul Robichaud extended moose hunting season to five days from three.
The number of licences available for New Brunswick residents will be held at 4,612, the same as in 2013.
The department has made other hunting changes in recent years. In 2012, the provincial government lowered the hunting age for small game and varmints to 12 from 14.