Spring bear hunt returns

A young bear enjoying a fresh apple was caught on a local trailcam as it gets ready for its long winter’s nap.

MANITOULIN—Ontario is proposing an expanded spring bear hunting pilot program to gather further information to assess concerns voiced by Northern communities about human-bear conflicts, and to support economic growth and tourism in Northern Ontario. This includes Manitoulin Island.

The proposed spring bear hunt pilot expansion, now available for public comment on Ontario’s Environmental Registry, would include: extending the pilot by an additional five years, through to 2020, to all 88 wildlife management units that currently have a fall bear hunt (Manitoulin is one of them) and be made available to non-resident hunters.

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Under the expanded pilot proposal, it would still be illegal to hunt bear cubs and females with cubs. Anyone convicted of this offence could face a fine of up to $25,000 and up to one-year imprisonment. In most cases, each licenced hunter would only be allowed to hunt one bear in each calendar year. Baiting of bears during all bear hunting seasons would be regulated to help address possible public safety concerns.

“Managing the bear population responsibly through an expanded pilot program would allow us to gather further information to assess the impacts of an early black bear season on concerns voiced by Northern communities about human-bear conflicts, and to support economic growth and tourism in Northern Ontario,” said Bill Mauro, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, in a press release.

Bobby Tuomi, a former spring bear hunt guide of Kagawong, is pleased at the province’s decision. “I’d say congrats to whoever brought it back,” he said.

“There were three of us that ran a (spring bear hunt) business here,” Mr. Tuomi explained. “We did well.”

He noted that the fall is a hard time to hunt bear. “Food sources are pretty decent on Manitoulin—there are acorns and apples in abundance.”

Manitoulin has never been a hot spot for bear hunting, Mr. Tuomi continued, adding that there are not many who are knowledgeable in the ways of the hunt.

As for places like Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie which report problems of nuisance bears on a regular basis, Mr. Tuomi said that the spring hunt will definitely alleviate the issue, and bring tourist dollars back.

“There is potential here, it’s just a matter of getting into it,” he added.

The ministry states that Ontario is home to a healthy and sustainable black bear population with up to 105,000 black bears living in the province.

Currently across Canada, each province and territory with black bears has a spring and fall bear hunt except Nova Scotia and Ontario, which only have fall hunts.

For 2014 and 2015, Ontario held a two-year bear management pilot program in eight wildlife management units, all of which reported high levels of nuisance bear activities. The hunt was open to Ontario residents from May 1 to June 15. Communities in and around these units include Timmins, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay.