In 1999, the Ontario Progressive Conservative government abruptly cancelled the spring black bear hunting season amidst growing concerns that the practice was unethical, unsportsmanlike, and was needlessly orphaning bear cubs. Fifteen years later, the decision is still a source of controversy in northern Ontario as many point to the tens of millions of dollars lost to the outfitting/guiding industry and the perception that the reduction in hunting pressure has led to an increase in the black bear population.
In November 2013, Minister of Natural Resources, David Orazietti, announced that the government was finally reopening the books on the spring bear hunt by reintroducing a limited two year pilot season (the first just ended on 15 June 2014). The hunt would take place in eight wildlife management units near the region’s five largest centres (North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, and Timmins) in order to reduce human-bear conflict. However, there is no science to suggest that additional hunting pressure in these areas will mitigate unwanted encounters between humans and bears. The driving force behind these types of incidents is generally, food availability, which is hinged both on seasonal variations and human responsibility (limiting attractants). Thus, much like the first spring bear hunt debate, it appears that this one will also not be without controversy.
As part of Dr. Kirsten Greer’s course, GEOG-2226: Environment and Society at Nipissing University, Mike Commito, PhD candidate at McMaster University, gave a talk about the history of the spring bear hunt in Ontario. He focuses on the ways in which scientific, ethical, and geographic concerns have shaped the conversation around this controversial hunting practice in the province in order to provide context, question, and better understand the current situation.