John Kaplanis of the Northwestern Ontario Sportsmen's Alliance thinks it's a mistake to exclude residents from outside the province from the proposed spring bear hunt. (Supplied)

A hunters lobby group is hopeful the province’s pilot project to reintroduce the spring bear hunt will be successful enough to expand the hunt.

The executive director of the Northwestern Ontario Sportsmen's Alliance said a limited spring bear hunt is a good start toward something bigger.

"And hopefully in, you know, four to five years, we have a complete black bear management … program that somewhat looks a lot like it did prior to 1999,” John Kaplanis said.

But the province will only allow Ontarians in the hunt during the two year test program. This is problematic for Kaplanis, who said hunters from outside the province bring in valuable tourism dollars and help control the bear population.

"To get the number of hunters in place in the springtime to effectively manage your bear population down, it would be I think really missing the boat by not including the non-residents in this program."

He said he’s also concerned that only areas around major centres are included in the hunt, and smaller communities are excluded.

In the northwest, the project will run only in wildlife management zones near Thunder Bay — and only if city council passes a motion to approve it.

"Given what happened with the last resolution to support MPP Mauro's bill to return the spring bear hunt, I'm sure this council will be supportive of it,” Mayor Keith Hobbs said.

The hunt would start next May, and run until the middle of June.