Sudbury·Audio

Spring bear hunt pilot project numbers lower than expected

Preliminary numbers released by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry show the spring hunt pilot project hardly put a dent in the bear population.

Number of bears killed during 2014's spring hunt a fraction what it was in the 1990s — before hunt was stopped

The spring bear hunt is being welcomed by many hunters, who say something needs to be done to cut down on the number of human and bear interactions in the north. Back in the heyday of the Spring Bear Hunt, when it was open to American tourists, thousands of bears were shot every year. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)
Preliminary numbers released by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry show the spring hunt pilot project hardly put a dent in the bear population.

Slightly less than 200 bears were shot last spring, while it is estimated there are as many as 100,000 in the province.

The MNRF said 847 hunters shot 193 bears in Ontario last spring.

Back in the 1990s, there were 20,000 licensed bear hunters, most of them American tourists who, each year, shot thousands of bears.

Back then, the hunt was a tourism industry — with some population control on the side.

When the Liberal government brought it back last year as a scaled-back pilot project, it was in the name of public safety.

Bear hunting historian Mike Commito said the recently reported numbers are even lower than he thought.

"They almost backed themselves into a corner because everyone was expecting this was not going to achieve the results they had planned."

The spring bear hunt was only allowed in the bush surrounding the five major cities in northern Ontario. And police forces in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins all report more calls of bears causing trouble than the year before.

The second year of the trial hunt gets underway May 1.

After that, government scientists will crunch some numbers for politicians to consider, when they decide whether to keep the hunt permanently or cancel it again.

Commito noted the government needs to take a new direction on bear management.

"Take it away from north versus south — or Queen's Park telling us what to do — and ... make it more of a discussion about what's best for each individual community."

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