Spring bear hunt plans irk northerners

Since the spring bear hunt in Ontario was cancelled almost 15 years ago, the issue has pitted environmentalists against tourist operators — but now they both agree the province's new plan is a bad one.

Details of spring bear hunt to be worked out prior to May 1 season opening

Bear hunt areas for Ontario's proposed spring bear hunt pilot program. (MNR)

Since the spring bear hunt in Ontario was cancelled almost 15 years ago, the issue has pitted environmentalists against tourist operators — but now they both agree the province's new plan is a bad one.

"If anybody was going to screw anything up it was going to be the ministry,” said Roxanne Lynn, who owns a hunting lodge near Chapleau.

Lynn has lobbied for the return of the bear hunt for years, but said the province's plan to only allow spring hunting near major cities — and only by Ontario residents — will just take more business away from outfitters.

"This is kind of like a double whammy for us,” she said. “We were hit financially in 1999 and now the outfitters that are going to be affected are going to be hit again."

Mike McIntosh, who campaigned to kill the hunt back in the 1990s, is also not impressed with the government plan.

"I don't think they're going to accomplish what they say they're going to accomplish."

McIntosh runs a bear sanctuary near Sundridge and said hungry bears will still come into cities and towns, despite the reintroduction of the hunt.

"Hunting isn't going to change that. Bears are looking for food and, if people aren't careful, they're going to continue looking for food in urban areas,” he said.

The province says the exact details of this new spring bear hunt will be worked out, leading up to the opening of the season on May 1.

Municipal decisions

It will be up to city and town councils in northern Ontario to decide if the bear hunt returns this spring.

The province wants to try out bear hunting for the next two springs, but only if it's OK with the councils in and around the north's five major cities.

Sudbury city councillor Claude Berthiaume said he will have no problem voting to allow bear hunting in Greater Sudbury this spring. He said he hears from a lot of Chelmsford and Dowling residents who have just had a run-in with a bear.

He has pushed for the ministry of natural resources to start responding to bear calls again. Bringing back the spring hunt is better than nothing, he said.

"I'm not sure how much impact this will have, but it's a step in the right direction."

Most of the area served by Temiskaming-Cochrane MPP John Vanthof is not part of this two-year trial bear hunt — and that’s left him with some questions.

"If you aren't in the pilot program and your municipality is having huge problems with bears, what then?"

He said it will still be up to the police in those towns to handle bear calls, something the Liberal government admits isn't working.


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