Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia once again rejects plea by hunters for spring bear hunt

Nova Scotia hunters have tried again to convince the province to allow a spring bear hunt, but the minister responsible says he didn't want to move ahead without broad public support.

Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin says 'there's no compelling reason from a conservation perspective'

The fall black bear hunting season runs from Sept. 10 until Dec. 1 in Nova Scotia. (Tyson Koschik/CBC file photo)

The president of a Cape Breton hunting and fishing group is worried someone will have to be attacked by a bear to convince the Nova Scotia government to allow a spring bear hunt.

"If somebody has to get seriously hurt or mauled, it is too late then," said Jeff McNeil, president of the Port Morien Wildlife Association.

His group and 21 others affiliated with the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters have been lobbying the province for at least 15 years to establish a spring bear hunt.

McNeil thinks what's standing in the way is a sense by politicians that having a spring and fall hunt would be "political suicide."

"With the backlash us hunters and trappers of the province get from time to time, a lot of it is driven by people that don't like what we do," he said.

'The numbers have been consistent,' says minister

Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin said his decision was rooted in evidence, not politics.

"There's no compelling reason from a conservation perspective," he said. "The numbers have been consistent. The harvest levels have been consistent. The population remains consistent."

The province sold 10,313 bear licences in 2017 and estimates 597 animals were harvested during the fall hunting season. That estimate was up from 283 in 2009.

Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin says the population numbers for bears have been consistent. (CBC)

The black bear hunting season runs from Sept. 10 until Dec. 1. The snare season runs between Oct. 1 and Dec. 1.

Rankin said a decision to change the season would require public consultations.

"And we're not hearing from the general public that this is something that they would like to see," he said.

But McNeil points to what he claims is an increasing number of complaints about nuisance bears as an indication the population is increasing and therefore the possibility of a bear attack.

'Do we have to have somebody lose their life?'

McNeil, using Nova Scotia's access to information law, received hundreds of pages, each with dozens of recorded calls to the province about bears near homes. The data goes back a decade.

"It wasn't so long ago that we had the incident in the [Cape Breton] highlands park involving coyotes and then it was an all-out bounty on coyotes," he said. "Do we have to have somebody lose their life before we can have the province open their eyes and move this forward?"

About the Author

Jean Laroche

Reporter

Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter for 32 years. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.

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