Comment: Grizzly bears more useful alive than dead

Grizzly photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Grizzly photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Chris Genovali / Times Colonist
July 17, 2014

One can only conclude that Naomi Yamamoto, provincial minister of tourism and small business, was poorly briefed with regard to the grizzly bear hunt after reading about her recent speech on Saltspring Island.

Having B.C.’s tourism minister put forth the notion that the proliferation of oilsands pipelines and oil tankers, along with the escalation of a host of other industrial-scale resource extraction activities, would somehow be compatible with a robust tourism industry based on the natural beauty of the province is dubious. But for Yamamoto to suggest that bear viewing is compatible with the trophy-killing of bears, and then disproportionately claim that the grizzly hunt is a chief economic driver for the province, is inexplicably out of touch.

Contrary to Yamamoto’s assertions, there is no ecological, ethical or economic justification for continuing to trophy-kill B.C.’s grizzly bears.

The ecological argument is clear — killing bears for “management” purposes is unnecessary and scientifically unsound. Although attempts are made to dress up B.C.’s motivations in the trappings of “sound science,” the province is clearly driven by an anachronistic ideology that is disconcertingly fixated on killing as a legitimate and necessary tool of wildlife management.

Paul Paquet, senior scientist at Raincoast Conservation Foundation, large carnivore expert and co-author of a 2013 published peer-reviewed paper on B.C. bear management, states: “We analyzed only some of the uncertainty associated with grizzly management and found it was likely contributing to widespread overkills. I’m not sure how the government defines sound science, but an approach that carelessly leads to widespread overkills is less than scientifically credible.”

The ethical argument is clear — gratuitous killing for recreation is unacceptable and immoral. Polling shows that nine out of 10 British Columbians agree, from rural residents (including many hunters) to city dwellers.

In their 2009 publication The Ethics of Hunting, Michael Nelson and Kelly Millenbah state that if wildlife managers began “to take philosophy and ethics more seriously, both as a realm of expertise that can be acquired and as a critical dimension of wildlife conservation, many elements of wildlife conservation and management would look different.”

During her Saltspring appearance, Yamamoto attempted to downplay widespread public concern about the grizzly hunt by stating: “it’s not like a bear gets killed every day.”

Given that an average of 300 grizzlies and 3,900 black bears (according to the B.C. Wildlife Federation) are killed for trophies in B.C. annually, the minister’s statement is not only flippant, but callous to the disturbing amount of carnage inflicted on bears in this province every year for the most trivial of reasons — recreational trophy hunting.

The economic argument is clear — recent research by the Centre for Responsible Travel at Stanford University says that bear-viewing supports 10 times more employment, tourist spending and government revenue than trophy hunting in B.C.’s vast Great Bear Rainforest.

Notably, the CREST Stanford study suggests the revenue generated by fees and licences affiliated with the trophy killing of grizzlies fails to cover the cost of the province’s management of the hunt. As a result, B.C. taxpayers, most of whom oppose the hunt according to poll after poll, are in essence being forced to subsidize the trophy killing of grizzlies.

For Yamamoto to suggest that banning the grizzly bear hunt would jeopardize the province’s ability to “generate the extra revenue to pay for health care, education and all those things that people are demanding” is astoundingly off-base.

The 2014 CREST Stanford study reaffirms what Coastal First Nations, the eco-tourism industry and conservation groups like Raincoast have been pointing out for years — keeping grizzly bears alive generates significantly greater economic benefits than killing them via trophy hunting.

In 2003, Raincoast and the Centre for Integral Economics released the report Crossroads: Economics, Policy, and the Future of Grizzly Bears in British Columbia, which compared revenues generated by grizzly viewing versus grizzly hunting.

Even more than a decade ago, when the bear-viewing sector of the ecotourism industry was in its nascent stage, viewing grizzlies was bringing in about twice the annual revenue as grizzly hunting.

Our analysis showed that in the long term, it makes more economic sense to shoot grizzly bears with cameras than to shoot them with guns. Over the course of a grizzly’s life, the bear can be viewed and photographed hundreds of times, generating tremendous economic wealth for B.C.

However, a grizzly bear can only be shot and killed once.

Chris Genovali is executive director of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

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Stop the Massacre of Grizzly Bears in British Columbia, Canada. Stop the Grizzly Bear Hunt

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

People come to BC to hunt the grizzly bears on the estuaries where they are feeding, this is not sport. They shoot the eating bears from boats, take a paw or two and the head and leave the rest to rot on the estuary. Grizzly bears are already threatened in BC. The First nations People are against this hunt, the majority of the people in the province are against this hunt but the BC Liberal Government headed by Christie Clarke refuses to deal with the issue. The Guide and Outfitters Association of BC, the B.C. Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited and the Canadian Wildlife Federation are in fact powerful pro-hunting political lobby groups. The government of BC & Ms Clark is afraid to stand up to them because the Liberal Party will lose much needed cash in the form of political donations from these organizations. The solution is to get as many names as possible and contact the Premier of the Province of BC and demand that she stop the Grizzly Bear Hunt.

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Group can’t bear hunt’s return

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

By Brian Kelly, Sault Star

A Toronto-based animal rights group is taking a swing at David Orazietti for bringing the spring bear hunt out of hibernation after more than a decade.

The Sault Ste. Marie MPP, who was appointed minister of natural resources in February 2013, oversaw the hunt’s limited return with a two-year pilot program to eight Northern Ontario communities this year.

They were chosen because of a large number of bear and human incidents. Fifty communities passed resolutions wanting in on the pilot program. Orazietti calls the hunt’s return “an effective management tool.”

“I think we’re taking a very pragmatic approach, a very thoughtful and strategic approach in terms of this program,” he said, noting no questions on the issue have been asked by politicians at Queen’s Park since last fall. “I think we’ve reached a very effective and appropriate balance on this issue.”

Not so, contends Animal Alliance of Canada in a colour advertisement published in Saturday’s edition of The Sault Star and a pamphlet delivered to Sault Ste. Marie households last week.

“Orazietti tells people he did (the hunt’s return) for public safety reasons,” the ad reads. “But he knows that’s not true.”

The handout accuses Orazietti and Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne for “flagrantly” tossing aside environmental and animal protection laws and regulations “to serve their single minded goal of getting re-elected.”

The Liberals, in power provincially since 2003, have a worse environmental and animal protection record than the federal government, Animal Alliance argues.

The group suggests scientists with Orazietti’s ministry told him the hunt wouldn’t reduce problems with bears and humans.

Orazietti counters the Liberal government’s decision for a targeted hunt, after it was quashed outright by the Conservatives in 1999, has plenty of backers including civic, police and education leaders.

Mayor Debbie Amaroso and Sault Ste. Marie Police Service Chief Bob Davies appeared alongside the MPP when he announced the hunt’s return to eight wildlife management units in November. There are 94 units in Ontario.

“We did it for public safety reasons,” said Orazietti. “I think it’s insulting to Northerners to have a special interest group based out of Toronto attempting to dictate policy for Northerners, people in our community.”

He argues Ontario has a “very healthy, sustainable” black bear population of about 105,000 and that similar hunts take part in most Canadian provinces.

“I’m sure their (Animal Alliance staff) kids go to school and are able to go out for recess in a safe environment where there are not 400-pound black bears roaming their school yard,” said Orazietti. “That’s not safe and that’s not something we should be faced with in our community either.”

With a provincial election nearing on Thursday, the MPP says most voters he talks to at the 1,000-plus doors he’s knocked on are glad the hunt is back in the Sault, Sudbury, North Bay and Timmins. Some, Orazietti added, told him they would e-mail Animal Alliance to criticize its ad campaign.

Sault residents, he says, “know the realities of living in Northern Ontario (and are) fully aware of the potential safety risks of not effectively managing (the) black bear population well.”

“The number of people that are supporting what has been done here with our policy on this has been overwhelming,” said Orazietti.

Hunt opponents are concerned mother bears will be killed, leaving cubs orphaned and doomed to starve. Only male bears can be killed during the six-week hunt.

Its return doesn’t impress Josh Kerns either.

“There shouldn’t be an annual bear hunt to begin with,” he wrote on The Sault Star’s Facebook page. “Anybody who shoots animals for fun should be charged with animal cruelty.”

Animal Alliance is also critical of Ministry of Natural Resources for axing Bear Wise services including trapping and relocating problem bears.

Orazietti said packing up bruins and relocating them to the bush doesn’t work.

“It does not make sense to continue to operate the trap and relocate program when it’s not effective,” he said.

City police responded to several bear calls in the west end on Saturday. Locations include a business parking lot and housing complex on Second Line West, Nichol Avenue, Pittsburg Avenue and Edison Avenue.

Garbage and food sources shouldn’t be left out because they attract bears, police say.



‘I’m a redneck, it’s what we do for fun': Canadian man accused of murdering four women told police he was covered in blood because he had clubbed a deer to death

An alleged serial killer told Canadian authorities who had pulled over his vehicle that he was covered in blood because he had just clubbed a deer to death, it has emerged.

But Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers knew there was more to the story when they stopped Cody Legebokoff, 24, for speeding on a rural road near Prince George, British Columbia.

He is now on trial for the murders of Loren Leslie, 15, Jill Stuchenko, 35, Cynthia Maas, 35, and Natasha Montgomery, 23, who all died in 2009 or 2010.

Legebokoff had allegedly just killed Leslie, whom he met after they chatted online, when he was pulled over on a quiet stretch of highway on November 27, 2010, the National Post reported.

RCMP Constable Aaron Kehler, who was just a rookie at the time, had spotted the truck speeding through a forest and thought it was strange when the vehicle didn’t slow down when it hit the highway.

He guessed that the driver was speeding so signaled for him to stop and waited for another officer,
K.P. Sidhu, to meet him. The two constables had been about to meet to exchange a lost purse.

When they approached the vehicle, Legebokoff had blood smears on his face and chin, blood on his legs and a pool of blood on the driver’s mat. But it was an open beer can that allowed the constables to conduct a thorough search of the truck under the Liquor Control Licence Act, the Post reported.

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Controversial bear hunt reinstated in Ontario

WBFO’s Dan Karpenchuk reports1467382_575553635851437_268599181_n

After 15 years, Ontario’s spring bear hunt is on again, on an experimental basis. It began on May 1, despite an 11th hour legal bid by animal rights groups to prevent it.

The case to bring back the hunt was based on years of complaints from organizations and residents who say there have been more dangerous human-bear encounters since the hunt was canceled in 1999.

The case against the hunt was made by the Animal Alliance of Canada and Zoocheck Canada. Lawyers for the groups argued that an early hunt violates animal cruelty laws; cubs could be orphaned and then die of starvation or be killed by predators.

They went to court arguing for a judicial review, but just a day before it was to begin, an Ontario judge dismissed that legal attempt to block or delay the hunt.

Ontario’s natural resources minister says he is pleased with the decision, saying the priority from the start was for the public safety of people in the north. Fish and Game groups also praised the decision, saying the hunt is the only one tool for managing the bear population and without it, the number of dangerous encounters will increase.

The animal rights groups say they are disappointed but will continue to fight against the hunt by careful monitoring and perhaps even having members out observing the hunting.

The pilot project to reinstate the hunt will run for six weeks in eight regions known for having the most public safety incidents involving bears.

Run! It’s huge wolves from Canada!

May 3, 2014

It has been brought to my attention that some Canadians aren’t nearly as nice as I had thought.

Oh, the humans of that neighborly nation are every bit as affable as we’ve always believed. But I’m here to warn you that giant Canadian wolves are a far different matter.

I was reading a letter to the editor the other day in which a worried gentleman from the USA insisted that the wolves who have been reintroduced into the United States are actually Canadian wolves.

“These are not timber wolves like we had here years ago,” the guy warned. “These are Canadian wolves that are three and four times as big.”

That gets my attention. The wolves we used to have were about the size of a collie. Four times that would be a wolf about the size of a pony. How would you like to bump into something in the forest that resembles a pony with fangs?

Every few years, I see letters to the editor like that, (sometimes warning me against Bigfoot at the same time). I get curious and take a look at the latest reports on the Internet to see how many humans those cruel critters have killed recently.

For about the last 50 years, the figures are a grand total of eight fatal attacks on humans in Europe and Russia. But oddly enough, there have been no wolf-induced deaths of humans in North America in the past half century. And if you remember your third-grade geography you will know that North America includes Canada.

So if anything, wolves are less likely to kill us than cougars, bears and giant Canadian tsetse flies. So what’s going on here? The problem isn’t that big hulking Canadian wolves are killing people left and right. The wolves haven’t killed anybody on this continent for decades.

But they have killed plenty of elk and sheep and calves, and that’s a legitimate problem for hunters and ranchers.

Isn’t it enough for a hunter or a rancher to warn people of actual, normal-sized wolves without trying to scare the pants off everybody?

I sometimes sit and watch our two cats romping around the house, practicing their predatory ways. If house cats are ever bred up to dimensions three or four times larger than their present size, muscle them out of the house and call the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

But beware lest the Mounties are riding Canadian-sized wolves.

However that’s probably not going to happen. If there really are Canadian wolves three or four times the size of our former wolves, then we are in deep trouble.

If our original wolves were four feet long, two feet tall and weighed 100 pounds, then the giant Canadian wolves would be 15 feet long, eight feet tall, 400 pounds and much too fond of human flesh.

But I will grant those among you who are personally terrified of wolves that maybe there is something in the water up there that should concern everyone in North America, including Mexicans.

This whole business worries me. I have friends in Canada. And that agitated letter writer makes me wonder about my friend Greg, a Canadian newspaper editor, who has been astute enough to carry this column for years. I have corresponded with Greg though I have never met him in the flesh. But now I wonder about the possibility of everything being massively bigger up there — mountains, salmon, wheat production and maybe even Greg.

Please don’t tell me he is three to four times larger than newspaper editors down here, though that may be true of his great heart. After all, he is a Canadian.



U.S. hunters may be invited to help control Ontario’s bear population

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

CTV Toronto
Published Saturday, April 26, 2014 11:41AM EDT

The Ontario government says it may consider opening up its bear hunt program to Americans if the spring pilot program fails to control the animal’s population.

Starting in May, a six-week bear hunt program will be reinstated in eight wildlife areas known for having public safety issues due to bears.

The program, which was originally nixed in 1999, was revived last year by Queen’s Park. It aims to reduce the number of emergency calls where nuisance bears pose a threat to the public, especially young children.

“We can’t have bears in the playgrounds,” Ontario’s Natural Resources Minister David Orazietti told CTV Toronto on Friday. “There are no parts of Ontario where this is acceptable and it certainly shouldn’t be acceptable in northern communities and cities.”

Currently, the spring bear hunt is limited to local hunters. But the Ontario government says it would consider opening it to Americans if the program is not as effective as planned.

While the program is not popular with many animal rights groups and activists, including TV personality Bob Barker, many residents in northern communities support the hunt.

During the spring season, it’s not uncommon for schools up north to be placed in lockdown as a result of a nearby bear.

The animal has also been known to wander into residential areas, leaving residents trapped in their home.

“I’ve had a situation where the bear was trying to crawl through a window, where the mom and the daughter were calling from a phone in the bedroom, trying to get somebody to deal with the bear,” Gilles Bisson, the Ontario NDP MPP for Timmins-James Bay, told CTV Toronto on Friday.

Nearly 50 mayors and city councils across northern Ontario have passed resolutions calling for participation in the spring bear hunt.

But earlier this month, Animal Alliance of Canada and Zoocheck Canada filed an application for judicial review and a notice of constitutional question in an attempt to stop the program from starting.

According to the groups, the hunt is tantamount to animal cruelty, because they say mother bears may be killed, leaving their orphaned cubs to certain death, either by starvation or predators.

“This is the only large-game species that are hunted when the young are still dependent on their mothers and it is inevitable that cubs will be orphaned,” Julie Woodyer, of Zoocheck Canada, told The Canadian Press earlier this month.

The case will be heard in court on Tuesday.

With files from CTV Toronto’s Paul Bliss and The Canadian Press


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Quebec hunters prevented from harvesting Labrador caribou

by Derek Montague
Published on April 22, 2014

Hunters were going after threatened Mealy Mountains herd: source

A group of Innu hunters from the Quebec North Shore were recently prevented from illegally hunting the threatened Mealy Mountains caribou herd in Labrador, according to a source.

A Labrador woodland caribou is shown. Some herds are considered threatened, such as the Mealy Mountains herd. — Photo courtesy of the provincial wildlife division

The 10 or so hunters were headed to the Birchy Lakes area, about 150 kilometres away from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, when wildlife officers stopped them.

The incident happened earlier this month.

Considered threatened

According to a 2009 publication from the Department of Environment and Conservation, the Mealy Mountains herd was estimated at just 2,500 animals and considered threatened under the provincial Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act.

Quebec hunters crossing the Labrador border to hunt caribou illegally is a problem that stretches back several years.

Back in 2007, two Quebec men from Pakua Shipi Innu were fined $18,000 each for killing caribou from the Mealy Mountains herd.

Serious problem

Former Labrador wildlife officer Hollis Yetman recalls how serious the problem was in the early 2000s, when caribou poaching near the Quebec-Labrador border was common.

“(The hunting) was significant. In 2003, there was endangered species legislation enacted and that was the catalyst for wildlife officers to have some strength and some backbone … that they could officially charge aboriginals for hunting these threatened caribou herds,” said Yetman.

Protected by wildlife officers

“If it wasn’t for a small, core group of wildlife officers that have had continuity protecting these herds for the past 10-15 years, I would say that the population would be far less than what they are now.”

Yetman is worried a few undetected hunts will be all that’s needed to decimate the Mealy Mountains herd and other woodland caribou.

“Basically, the Department of Justice keeps its eyes over these woodland caribou herds. Right now they’re doing a good job with their limited surveillance. (But) it only takes one or two undetected hunts by anyone and you will cause serious population problems with these herds,” said Yetman.

“The numbers are that sensitive.”

Yetman also feels that conservation efforts are also held up too much by the notion of aboriginal hunting rights.

“I think that the aboriginal right overshadows the need to protect these caribou a lot of the time,” said Yetman.

“The only thing keeping some of these caribou alive is the dedication of two or three of the wildlife officers who keep an eye on them.”

TC Media requested an interview with Justice Minister Darin King, but there was no response by press time, as government offices were closed Monday.

TC media was also been unsuccessful at reaching Pakua Shipi Chief Dennis Mestenapeo.

The Canadian government fantasy about the seal hunt is just not that widely shared

Canadian Blog

by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate

Born Free USA’s Canadian Representative

Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry’s your man. (And we’re happy to have him as part of our team, too!)

Advice to Gail Shea and the Canadian Government: Here’s How to Impress the EU

The Canadian government fantasy is just not that widely shared

Published 04/18/14

You may wonder why I, a long time opponent of Canada’s east coast commercial seal hunt, would offer advice to those who fight people like me: the Canadian government. No fear. Anything not fitting the current Canadian government’s ideology is ignored, and yet I live in hope. Call it Canadian pride, or what is left of it, but I hate how we’re increasingly considered to be so backward and regressive on issues pertaining to the environment and animal welfare by so much of the rest of the world—including the European Union (EU), whose ban on the import of products from the east coast commercial seal hunt is opposed by Member of the Canadian Parliament, Gail Shea.

Recently, she was quoted as blaming the “the animal rights movement” for China’s apparent reticence to import products, claiming that we had “put a lot of pressure” on the Chinese. Think how that sounds in Europe or China. The so-called “animal rights movement,” whatever she thinks that may be, is supported by volunteered donations (not taxes), and has its hands full with multitudes of humanitarian and environmental concerns in China—from imports of endangered species through dwindling habitat for its own endangered fauna; to horrific zoo, fur, and livestock farm conditions; to a lack of laws providing animal protection; to the live skinning of dogs, cats, or other meat animals in street markets; to shark fin soup; to killer pollution that has caused birds to drop from the sky and marine life to go extinct; to there being virtually no local NGO (non-governmental organization) of its own dedicated to animal protection. And, compared to the resources available to the Government of Canada, what “pressure” do you think humanitarians have? Trade sanctions? Travel restrictions? Call in the ambassador? Mobilize military assets?

So, my first piece of advice to Shea and her colleagues: get real if you want the Europeans to take Canada seriously when it fights to lift the ban on products from the east coast commercial hunt. And to be fair, China is moving forward on environmental and animal protection issues, yes—but no western NGO influences China’s government policy.

Shea is fully in her right to claim that no “baby” seals are killed, but she should understand that, for it to be a truthful statement, a seal has to suddenly stop being a baby at about three weeks of age. But, redefining words does not change their meaning for the rest of the world.

The federal government (dominated by a party most Canadians did not vote for) has continually disgraced itself on many fronts, including the recently-announced (and ironically named) Fair Elections Act, which, if passed, will reduce the number of votes cast by citizens. (But, most foreigners don’t know about that sort of domestic issue.) However, because the issue is of global significance, they do know that former Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, referred to “environmental and other radical groups” as threatening “to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.” Oh, the irony, coming from a government that has systematically cut funding to research that demonstrates the risk of over-fishing or global climate change. I’ve been a Canadian longer than the Prime Minister and have never seen a more ideological government—and part of the ideology is to ignore facts or expert opinion. It’s no wonder that the Conference Board of Canada ranked our environmental record 15th out of 17 industrial countries, with, a year later, Simon Frazer University ranking us 24th out of 25 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development nations on environmental performance.

It is hard to reconcile the Canadian decision to contemptuously close, without a trace of consultation with the scientists affected, more than a dozen science libraries run by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Environment Canada, including the then-newly refurbished, century-old St. Andrews Biological Station in New Brunswick—literally throwing hundreds of thousands of documents, including unpublished material with irretrievable baseline data, into dumpsters!

Just recently, Shea has made moves to reduce protection of breeding habitat of various fish stocks, and to ignore utterly scientific advice in order to support west coast salmon farming that puts native stocks at serious risk. In fact, there is a long history of bad decisions by a succession of fisheries ministers for both parties that have formed governments, resulting in numerous losses of valued fish stocks (but nothing like the anti-environmental fanaticism we now see). With such contempt for science, is it any wonder that claims that the commercial seal hunt is supported by “science” are taken with more than a grain of salt in Europe? People can judge for themselves by viewing video online, to which the government has responded by tabling a bill that would prevent observers from getting close enough to sealers to film how they do it. That’s just so typical. Never have I seen such opacity, such secrecy, and such contempt for openness and accountability as is displayed by this government.

In addressing the World Trade Organization, Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment (who once asked us to celebrate the killing of a polar bear), was miffed that the EU imported seals from Greenland. That’s because it’s an aboriginal hunt… but so is the hunt for seals in northern Canada, and products from it are also not banned: a point Canada ignores, to the detriment of northern “subsistence” sealers’ interests. They have a monopoly. Subsistence, yes, but Europeans know that trade with them is a function of European colonization. The real irony is that the Canadian government has continually ignored warnings about climate change that so profoundly puts northern traditions at risk from melting permafrost and diminishing ice, including the sea ice so essential to seals and polar bears.

It is ironic, too, that—again ignoring any science that shows that gray seals are not proved to be a threat to commercial fisheries (and could help them in their role as apex predators)—Canada claims that they should be culled, and claims that no seal is wasted, when there is no market. Again, the Europeans are informed on such matters.

Canada loves to mention foie gras, bullfights, and fox hunting as examples of European traditions equal to the seal hunt in cruelty. But, to compassionate (and logical) Europeans, two wrongs don’t make a right, and the fact is that the EU is far ahead of Canada in trying to set standards for increasingly humane treatment of animals. As the recent trial of Maple Lodge, our largest chicken producer, shows, we have a very long way to go. Meanwhile, the humane movement also fights these “traditions,” success dependent on public support. The trajectory, in Europe and many other regions, is forward, toward ever more animal welfare. Not so, sadly, here in Canada.


Ontario spring bear hunt to face court challenge from animal rights groups

A black bear roams the forest A black bear roams the forest near Timmins, Ont., on Sunday, May 27, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Nathan Denette)

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press
Thursday, April 17, 2014

TORONTO — Two animal rights groups are taking the Ontario government to court in an attempt to stop a spring bear hunt pilot program before it begins, alleging it amounts to animal cruelty.

Animal Alliance of Canada and Zoocheck Canada say mother bears will be killed during the hunt, leaving their orphaned cubs to starve or be killed by predators.

“The babies at this time are very small,” said Julie Woodyer of Zoocheck Canada.

“This is the only large game species that are hunted when the young are still dependent on their mothers and it is inevitable that cubs will be orphaned.”

The animal rights groups have filed an application for judicial review and a notice of constitutional question, which are set to be heard in court on April 29, just days before the start of the program. They hope the court will at least delay the start of the hunt until it can rule on their legal actions.

The regulation would be contrary to animal cruelty laws in the Criminal Code, said the groups’ lawyer David Estrin.

“In our view, reinstituting this program would be tantamount to the minister and the Ministry of Natural Resources either wilfully permitting bear cubs to suffer or failing to exercise reasonable care or supervision of the bear cub population,” he said.

“The Criminal Code prohibits causing or allowing animals to suffer. This program of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources will cause black bears to suffer.”

The pilot project to reinstate the spring bear hunt will start May 1 and run for six weeks in eight wildlife areas known for having the most public safety incidents involving bears.

“In northern Ontario it is not responsible for a provincial government to ignore the concerns of thousands of residents who are concerned about their public safety,” said Natural Resources Minister David Orazietti.

“We have young children who can’t go out for recess at their schools, teachers wearing bear whistles because their children are threatened.”

Nearly 50 mayors and city councils across northern Ontario have passed resolutions calling for their participation in the program, Orazietti said. Out of 95 wildlife management units in Ontario, the pilot program will be in eight, he said.

“Some people who are completely unaffected by this issue and whose children may be perfectly safe in the schools that they attend have no understanding of the implications and the safety challenges in communities in northern Ontario,” Orazietti said.

The hunt was cancelled in 1999 and then-natural resources minister John Snobelen said it had left thousands of cubs orphaned since hunters too often mistakenly shoot mother bears.

“Really, the only answer we came up with was to end the spring bear hunt,” he said at the time. “It’s the only acceptable way.”

Orazietti said the government has learned over the past 15 years that other strategies to reduce human-bear incidents have met “fairly limited success.”

“This has been a very, very thoughtful and strategic approach,” he said Thursday. “We’re not suggesting a return of the spring bear hunt of yesteryear.”

The animal rights groups say the ministry’s own scientists have found no link between the end of the spring bear hunt and human-bear incidents. Orazietti said “that’s not completely true.”

“Our scientists do recognize that there are other scientists and other groups that have indicated that bear hunts do in fact have an impact on population,” he said.

Terry Quinney, the provincial manager of fish and wildlife services for the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, said the spring bear hunt was for decades a valuable wildlife population management tool.

“In reducing the density and distribution of bears in the spring, particularly those older male bears, it is absolutely reducing the probability of dangerous encounters with people,” he said.

Hunters target the male bears, Quinney said, and there are ways they can distinguish male and female bears, especially using suspended bait.

“It’s not hard to imagine that if a food source is placed, for example, hanging from a tree, a bear in order to reach that food source is going to stand on its hind legs, making its genitalia very visible to a hunter,” he said.

Quinney also said there would be economic and social benefits to re-establishing the spring bear hunt in northern communities.

“Prior to the cancellation of the spring bear hunt in Ontario there were approximately 600 family-based businesses in northern and central Ontario that were involved in the spring bear hunt, for example providing guiding services for hunters,” he said.

“Revenues to northern and central Ontario on an annual basis were in excess of $40 million a year. All of those economic benefits have disappeared from Ontario.”

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VERY IMPORTANT! Please vote in the on line poll in the Toronto Sun to say NO to reviving the spring bear hunt in Ontario. The poll is on the bottom right of the home page here:


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