Recent Media Coverage

Reinstating bear hunt won’t achieve goals

Chronicle Journal,
Letter to the editor by Julee Boan,
November 25 2015

As the boreal program manager at Ontario Nature, I was surprised to read Dennis Ukrainec’s inflammatory letter to the newspaper summarizing his views on who we are and what we care about (Numbers Don’t Lie: Bear Wise Hasn’t Worked — CJ, Nov. 21). I appreciate the opportunity to respond.

Mr. Ukrainec did get one thing correct. Ontario Nature opposes the re-introduction of the spring bear hunt. Beyond that, however, we need to set some facts straight.

First, there is strong, scientific evidence that increasing the bear harvest through a spring hunt will not reduce human-bear conflicts. For example, a 2014 study by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) found that “human–bear conflict was not correlated with prior harvests, providing no evidence that larger harvests reduced subsequent human-bear conflict.” While it may be convenient for managers to assume that increasing the hunt would increase public safety, the evidence is simply lacking.

Second, Ontario Nature does not oppose hunting, but we do speak out in cases where we believe practices are unethical. We are not alone. Our community is decidedly divided over the spring bear hunt.

Many people, including hunters, have approached me to voice concerns. For example, I received this from one of our members who opposes the re-introduction of the spring hunt: “Many hunters believe that having a hunting season for any animal with nursing young is unethical, as misidentification by hunters can be a problem. We wouldn’t tolerate a spring hunt for deer or moose with their young, so why do we condone it for bears? As a hunter for over 50 years and living here in the North, I am saddened by the failure of many residents in bear country to take responsibility for educating themselves on this issue.”

Third, we don’t agree that the pilot program should be expanded to non-resident hunters, when its shortfalls (as the learning tool it claims to be) have not been addressed.

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s (ECO) report, released earlier this month, maintained that in reinstating the hunt as it did, the ministry ignored the advice of its own expert Nuisance Bear Review Committee.

As noted by the ECO, “incomplete information on the number, age, sex and location of the bears harvested each year prevents the MNRF from effectively evaluating the hunt’s ecological impact and making informed management decisions.”

The pilot hunt also did not involve collecting data on natural food shortages and community efforts to limit the availability of attractants, two known factors in human-bear conflicts.

Contrary to Mr. Ukrainec’s claims, there is solid evidence that where Bear Wise programs were properly implemented, human-bear encounters were drastically reduced: for example, over a 10-year period in Elliot Lake, nuisance bear calls dropped by 53-91 per cent per year, with more frequent call years associated with years of low natural food supply. Even in those years, the numbers were significantly reduced.

It is our belief that if the provincial government is genuine in its desire to reduce human-bear conflicts, it should invest in educational initiatives and work with (and support) municipalities to effectively implement the Bear Wise program.

In my family, we’re licensed hunters and when we hunt, we hunt for food. Our home is surrounded by forest, and occasionally bears do come around. We know we are stewards of this land and strive to always be cautious and respectful. That includes leaving nursing mothers in peace to raise their young. I have been privileged to meet many hunters who share those values.

Julee Boan

Boreal program manager, Ontario Nature

THUNDER BAY

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