Ontario Spring Bear Hunt

I must apologize for not writing in the last few weeks as life and work commitments have gotten the better of us. Well that… and the spring turkey season. We have been hard at it this spring and I have been quite busy putting together the footage for our first webisode of the year. We look forward to getting that up on the site and getting our spring Turkey stories up as well.

While many if not all of our followers have been busy chasing Turkeys this spring, there has been another more historic hunt taking shape. In 1999 I was just 14 years old and although I was already intrenched in the hunting and fishing tradition I wasn’t yet old enough to appreciate how fragile our hunting privileges could be.

In 1999 after holding little debate the Conservative government of Ontario cancelled the spring bear hunt. John Snobelen was the natural resources minister at the time and justified the motion as a move to protect bear cubs stating that the government “would not tolerate cubs being orphaned by hunters mistakenly shooting mother bears … Stopping the hunt is the only protection for the animals.” Proponents of the hunt and residents of Northern municipalities argued that this was simply Queens Park caving to opposition from anti-hunters.

The Ontario Black Bear
The Ontario Black Bear

It is now 15 years later. This time it is the Liberal government who has stepped to the plate recognizing the short comings of the previous hunt cancellation. Although there are different generations involved the heated debate about the hunt has not changed. Unfortunately those on both sides, to some degree have fallen into their same patterns.

Not long after it was announced that the MNR would be organizing a pilot project for the reinstatement of the spring bear hunt the same old anti-hunter paradigm began to surface. I have brought up the “straw man fallacy” before with respect to the anti-hunting argument. This is an informal fallacy where by the arguer misrepresents the original topic of argument making it something that it is not. A quick Google search and you will see that the heart of their argument: a spring bear hunt equals killing mother bears which equals orphaned bear cubs which equals starving baby bears.

Its a weak argument which attempts to tug at heart strings but possess little if any substance. I would rather them debate their actual objection which is simply that killing animals is wrong. We live in a wonderful country where freedom of opinion is paramount. One would be hard pressed to debate the argument that they are fundamentally against the killing of animals, which is in fact what the anti hunting movement is about.

Unfortunately this is unlikely to change. Much of the information disseminated by the anti-hunting society is misleading. A quick trip to this website and you will see what I mean (I have not done them the service of providing a link) http://www.ontariospringbearhunt.ca/ .There is a great deal of rhetoric but no actual references to any of there statements and little to know meaningful data. Furthermore a quick perusal of comment boards reveal many discerning statements like those below posted by individuals not even brave enough to use their real names:

“Actually my long life experience has shown me that people who do not care about animals, typically do not care much about people either. They are self-absorbed individuals, only to get a thrill when killing for sport. Some of them are not even good hunters, they don’t know how to shoot and kill immediately. They injure the animal and let it rot somewhere. Has happened in the past, and will happen in the future.”
“It is sad to see lactating bear mothers being shot, and the cubs defend for themselves, often starving to death or killed by predators. Who are those people who really don’t care about anything other than their own pleasure?”

There will always be differences in opinion and I am more than happy to tolerate the right of people to be fundamentally against killing animals. That’s their prerogative. The ignorance of the above statements is what concerns me. The anti-hunter discourse and existentialism with respect to their stereotypical hunter is both unfortunate and alarming.

Now to be fair, proponents of the spring bear hunt are not completely innocent of use of the Straw Man Fallacy. While it has been shown again and again that hunting practices promote wildlife management and that licences provide money for wildlife conservation, I have some mild concerns about the argument that the spring bear hunt will have significant effects on bear-human interactions. Although admittedly it makes logical sense it should work, my extensive research had me come up with little as far as proof. That said we will have to let time be the judge of the success of this pilot project in this regard.

More important for myself in regards to the spring bear hunt is its economic importance to many northern communities and its roots in Canadian tradition. Admittedly I have never participated in this particular hunt my self however this does not mean that I cannot appreciate the impact of such a tradition. Terry Quinney Provincial Manager Fish and Wildlife Services for the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters hits the nail on the head with the following:

“The hunt provided wholesome food, valuable hides, and rewarding hunting experiences for thousands of hunters each year; it generated over $40 million every year and sustained many jobs (all of which have flowed to our neighbours in Manitoba and Quebec because they continue to have spring bear hunts).”

No doubt we at The Hunt Blog will be watching anxiously how things play out with this pilot project and will try to do our part to ensure it carries forward. Certainly so to will be many residents of Northern Ontario municipalities as illustrated by comments from Al Apacek mayor of Lapuskaing discussing how Queen’s Park finally seems to be listening to the north.

“Any step is a good one,” he said. “I think it’s just one that warrants more conversation with the government about expanding the program.”

Thanks for taking the time to read and we encourage you to share this with other hunters you know. For those of you from Ontario please take to time to visit the OFAH website and read how you can make a difference. Stay tunned for our up coming turkey webisode and if you have any stories from this springs turkey hunts please send them in!

James Mather

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  1. Interesting post but I think you should also discuss the opposition towards the spring bear hunt pilot project that is not necessarily related to anti-hunting. Many people, including some hunters (such as myself) are opposed to the current pilot not because they are adamantly against spring bear hunting but because the government’s justification for bringing it back is flimsy. They say that the spring bear hunt will reduce negative human-bear interactions and thereby reduce “nuisance” activity but there is no scientific evidence that shows a correlation between spring bear hunting (or a lack of it) and nuisance bear behaviour. As a result, the government is marketing the spring bear hunt as a public safety measure, which on its own, will not achieve its aims as it will only instill a false sense of security. Nuisance bear activity is driven predominantly by the availability of natural and human food sources. Since this is difficult to forecast from year to year there is no reason to think spring bear hunting will combat these annual fluctuations. The best way to protect yourself, your home and property from unwanted black bear intrusions is to follow the tenets of Bear Wise. But I would have to agree with you that the orphaned cub angle certainly blurs the lines and often detracts from meaningful dialogue between those in the hunting and anti-hunting camps.

  2. Thanks for the comments and interest in the article Mike. As I mentioned above I do indeed agree that there is little evidence that the hunt will actually have any effect on human bear conflicts. I completely agree if one bear is removed another is likely to take up residence. It’s simple supply and demand. There is no doubt that a government hundreds of kilometres away from the battlefield is still missing the mark.

  3. Great post. I personally don’t think i’d ever be able to hunt a bear. I just think they are such majestic creatures.

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