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.




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


Read more:

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.”

Read more:

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:

Montana black bear hunting season opens April 15

HELENA – Montana’s spring black bear hunting season opens April 15.

Hunters can buy black bear hunting licenses online at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks license providers, or print a paper license application and mail it in to FWP. Licenses issued through the mail may take two weeks to process.

Spring black bear hunters should purchase their license by April 14. Black bear hunting licenses purchased after April 14 may not be used until 24 hours after purchase. Black bear hunters are limited to one black bear license a year.

All black bear hunters must successfully complete FWP’s bear identification test before purchasing a black bear license. Take the bear identification test online at the agency’s website.

Complete the training and test, and then present the printed on-line certificate to purchase a license. The training and test can also be obtained on paper, with a mail-in answer card, at FWP regional offices.

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Ontario rejects Barker call on spring bear hunt

By Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press
TORONTO – TV personality and animal rights activist Bob Barker tried but failed Tuesday to convince the Ontario government not to bring back the spring bear hunt, which the province cancelled in 1999.

                                “I feel deep concern about any animal mistreatment any place in the world, and this is in one of my favourite places, Canada, and I want to try to do something about it to protect these bear cubs,” Barker said in an interview from his home in Hollywood, Calif.

Barker, who last year helped fund the transportation of several elephants from the Toronto Zoo to a refuge in the United States, said it’s “barbaric” to let cubs starve to death after their mothers are lured from the den by bait and then killed by hunters.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize you’re murdering every cub,” he said. “I urge every Canadian who knows anything about this to step up to the plate and take a swing for the cubs.”

Ontario Natural Resources Minister David Orazietti disputed Barker’s claims about cubs being left to starve to death during a spring bear hunt.

“I have a ton of respect for Mr. Bob Barker, but I’m not sure where he’s getting his facts on this issue, and that’s not in fact the case at all,” he said.

Ontario plans a pilot project with a limited hunt in eight of 95 wildlife areas this spring to see if it will reduce the number of emergency calls and instances where police are forced to shoot nuisance bears, added Orazietti.

“I’m not sure if Mr. Barker is aware that eight other provinces in Canada and all territories have full provincewide or territory-wide spring bear hunts,” he said. “This is a much smaller, targeted approach to deal with really what’s become a public safety issue.”

The Ontario hunt will be non-profit and limited to local hunters.

Barker called the spring bear hunt “unethical” and “legislated cruelty” that has nothing to do with science, and said it doesn’t matter that Ontario is trying only a small scale pilot project.

“Whether it’s an experiment or it’s going to last for 30 years, it is just totally unacceptable in today’s society,” he said. “I just can’t understand how they can possibly do this.”

Zoocheck Canada said there was no scientific rationale for the return of the spring bear hunt, and called the public safety argument “flawed.” The animal protection charity said research shows that bear-human interactions are closely linked to variation in natural food sources, not to actual bear population numbers.

The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters urged the public to make sure “big city animal rights extremists” don’t derail the pilot project for a spring bear hunt.

“While the partial reinstatement of a hunt is a positive step, we believe that all of bear country deserves to experience the benefits of a spring hunt,” the group said in a statement.

Barker urged the province to explore other options such as laws to stop people from leaving food or garbage where bears can get at it, but Orazietti said Ontario had spent $35 million on alternative approaches to nuisance bears without great success.

“We’ve had over 50 resolutions from municipalities wanting to opt in to this pilot program, and that certainly speaks to the sense of urgency that communities have in northern Ontario in terms of dealing with this,” he said.

Orazietti said public safety was his main concern, and gave alarming examples like one northern community where a 400-pound brown bear wandered the streets on Halloween as kids walked about with bags full of candy.

“We have young kids in schools who can’t go out for recess because bears are in their playground,” he said. “Teachers are wearing bear whistles to call the students back into the safety of the school.”

Orazietti said it’s “too early to say” if the spring bear hunt in Ontario would be expanded next year, and will depend on the results of the pilot project.

“I think the most important thing we need to do now is to ensure that the proposed pilot project has the desired effect, including a reduced number of 911 calls,” he said.

Tell the Calgary Herald NO grizzly bear hunting

According to the Calgary Herald, a “debate” is surfacing (concocted and spurred on by the Herald itself) over whether to resume a hunt on grizzly bears in southwestern Alberta.

The grizzly recovery plan was put in place after studies found there were  fewer than 700 grizzlies left in Alberta, leading the government to declare the  species threatened.

Please vote NO in their poll and share your thoughts with the editorial board Here.

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

The Dreaded Day is Upon Us

I awoke this morning to the sound of angry gunfire. Not just the occasional, distant pop, pop but a constant blam, blam, blam symptomatic of wartime—or of people shooting blindly into a whole flock or herd of fleeing animals. I knew it was almost “general deer season,” but this sounded more like the kind of mindless blasting that goes on during goose and duck season in the winter months around here. So I checked the Washington “game” regulations and sure enough, an all-out “incredible war on wildlife” (as Cleveland Amory put it) had begun!

Not only is Oct. 13th (fittingly) the opening day of deer season, it’s also an early opener on ducks and geese today as well. From now until the end of November, no deer, elk, goose, duck or bear is safe from human harm. Meanwhile, species like cougar, bobcat, fox or raccoon will be under the gun until mid-March. And coyotes, crows and other “common” animals can be killed year-round in this supposedly blue state. The only beings not on the list of allowable targets are six endangered species (who of course were driven to the edge of extinction by overhunting decades ago).

I knew this dreaded day was coming; I just hoped it wouldn’t get here this soon. On the bright side, this is also the first day of a long streak of steady fall rain storms which should make for some rusty guns, water-logged campsites and miserably wet nimrods.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

August Not all Fun in the Sun for Everyone

Natalie Babbitt, author of Tuck Everlasting,wrote: “The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless and hot.”

Well, motionless perhaps, unless you’re a Washington State black bear trying to find food for the coming winter, while at the same time keeping your eyes peeled for bloodthirsty hunters.

That’s right, although it’s berry season for the bears, it’s “bear season” for hunters—as of August 1st—here in the Evergreen State. Now any Elmer who wants to can kill not one, but two bears each through November 15th! Any bear who values his or her hide will have no real peace until the snow flies and they’re safely tucked away in their hibernation den. Until then, they must assume there could be a camouflage-clad coward, with a high powered rifle or compound bow aimed at them, perched in every tree they pass under.

Each year 30,000 black bears are killed by hunters in the U.S. alone. Each one of them was a more remarkable, more worthy being than the cretins who would kill them for sport. If bears had Facebook pages, I’d add them all to my “Friends” list. To those who hunt bears: The enemies of my friends are my enemies. Since Facebook doesn’t have an “Enemies” list, the least I can do is unfriend you whenever you expose yourself as a hunter.

Wildlife Photography Copyright Jim Robertson