Retired game show host and long-time animal rights activist Bob Barker is speaking out against Ontario's pilot spring bear hunt, which he calls "legalized slaughter."
Barker was alerted to the province's decision to reinstate the hunt by Zoocheck Canada, an animal protection charity he's worked with in the past.
Barker said he's concerned about what happens to cubs when a hunter takes a mother bear.
“Everyone, anyone, man, woman, or child, would just be aghast at baby cubs being forced to starve to death. What a way to go,” he said.
But Natural Resources Minister David Orazietti said the spring hunt will only allow the hunting of adult male bears.
Since 1990, only two people have been charged with illegal hunting of females and cubs, he said.
- LISTEN: Hunter reacts to Bob Barker's anti-bear hunt comments
- READ: Ontario launches spring bear hunt pilot program
Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped Barker from telling CBC News the planned hunt is "barbaric.”
“What is the hunt about? You put out the bait, you wait until the mother shows up and you kill her. That's very sportsmanlike, isn't it?”
Barker said he'd prefer legislation stopping people from leaving food where bears can get at it.
'People do not feel safe'
However complaints about bears have risen since the spring hunt was cancelled in 1999, despite efforts to deal with the problem in other ways, Orazietti countered.
Even the ministry’s “expensive trap-and-relocate program” has proven largely ineffective, he said.
“The reality is, we're … not prepared to sit by while young children are endangered. People do not feel safe to be able to go for a walk with their spouse, for example. That's not right, and that's not a responsible approach,” he said.
“We have teachers in school yards wearing bear whistles to call children back in during recess because there's the threat of bears in the playground."
Orazietti noted that, despite the pilot hunt this spring, the province's Bear Wise education program will continue.
“[We need to] educate people about bears, to bear-proof properties, and implement the bear-wise program,” he said.
'They think it's cute'
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters said recent comments from high profile people like Barker show they know nothing about the topic.
Ray Polsky, the organization's director, said he's noticed most of the opposition comes from people who don't live in northern Ontario.
"A lot of them don't really see bears. They like to come to northern Ontario as their wildlife playground,” he said.
“You know, they just like to think that they're driving through the Toronto Zoo with all the animals around looking at their windows and whatever. They think it's cute."
Polsky reiterated the spring bear hunt is used as a tool to keep the bear population in check.