Thunder Bay

Ontario plans to bring back spring bear hunt with pilot program

The Ontario government is proposing to expand its pilot program for hunting black bears to allow the hunt to happen once again in the spring.

Non-resident hunters would be included in expansion

City councillors in Thunder Bay voted Monday night to endorse the provincial spring bear hunt, despite hearing from half a dozen concerned citizens, who say the hunt is unnecessary. (Associated Press)

The Ontario government is proposing to expand its pilot program for hunting black bears to allow the hunt to happen once again in the spring.

The five-year project will return as a pilot project starting this spring. It will extend to 88 wildlife management units across the province. It will also allow non-resident hunters to take part.

The province says it wants to expand the program to assess concerns around human-bear conflicts, and to boost economic development in northern Ontario.

The pilot program started in 2014. The province estimates there is a healthy black bear population of about 105,000.

Many outfitters are pleased that non-resident hunters will be allowed to hunt the bears, with some tourism groups estimating the value of the hunt to be $100 million.

The hunt was originally cancelled in 1999, and a scaled down version was allowed last year, near Timmins, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie and North Bay.

Only Ontarians were allowed to take part in that hunt, and hunting groups say most bear hunters come from out of province.

A 30-day comment period has opened for the five year pilot project, with the province planning to start the spring bear hunt early next year.

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