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.