David Orazietti's Letter
Thank you for contacting our office.
I take your concerns seriously, however it is important to consider all the facts with respect to the proposed approach.
To be clear, the Ontario Government is not proposing to re-introduce a province-wide spring bear hunt as it existed prior to 1999. We are proposing to address what has become a significant and growing public safety concern over the past fifteen years. Ontario is home to a healthy and sustainable bear population and our ministry is committed to ensuring that this continues. We have increasingly heard from northerners and northern municipalities that they have serious concerns about public safety resulting from an increase in human-bear conflicts.
In attempting to address these concerns, the Ministry of Natural Resources implemented the Bear Wise program in 2004 to reduce attractants, bear proof property and educate the public about nuisance bears. In fact, Ontario has spent $34.5 million, more than any other jurisdiction in North America, to educate people about bears and how to reduce conflict. After years of attempting to reduce human-bear conflicts, including a costly trap and re-locate program that proved to be ineffective, more needs to be done.
In response, our government has proposed a plan with a new approach to managing nuisance bear issues in Ontario. We are proposing a pilot project in a number of northern municipalities, which have the highest incidents of nuisance bears and which would include a limited early hunting season.
The pilot is limited to 8 wildlife management units (WMUs) out of 95 in Ontario. The proposal indicates that the hunt would only be open to Ontario residents and would run from May 1st to June 15th. The focus of the hunt is public safety. We will monitor and evaluate the success of the two-year pilot.
It is important to note that under the pilot project, hunting bear cubs or females with cubs will be illegal.
The “MNR numbers” that you have referenced regarding the orphan bear cubs are not MNR numbers and are not based on any science or data. In fact, MNR numbers do not suggest that hundreds of cubs will be orphaned and since 1990 there have only been two cases of hunters causing the orphaning of cubs according to MNR data.
MNR population data has indicated an increasing trend in the bear population in Ontario, but more importantly, there is an overall increase in the number of nuisance bear incidents.
In addition, in all the proposed WMUs, city councils and communities need to demonstrate support by passing a resolution indicating their support to opt into the pilot program. There is strong local support with nearly 50 resolutions passed to date including resolutions from Thunder Bay, Timmins, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.
In seven other provinces and all territories in Canada there are full jurisdictional hunts in the spring and fall. However, we believe a more strategic approach that is focused on increasing public safety is best for Ontario. While you may or may not live in northern Ontario it is certainly clear that those who most directly face this issue strongly support this responsible proposal.
Our government has a strong record on protecting wildlife, the environment and natural resources and we will continue to take a thoughtful balanced approach to these issues.