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Spring bear hunt

Ontario’s spring bear hunt has been a controversial subject for many years. In 1999 Mike Harris’s Progressive Conservative government banned the spring hunt that had existed in the province for decades. Before the ban was introduced, thousands of black bears were killed each year during the spring hunt. Many Americans would come up to Ontario for the hunt because it has been outlawed in most states in America.

Since the ban was implemented, many have advocated that it be lifted because of concerns over increasing bear populations and contact with humans. However, the fact that it takes advantage of bears when they are weak from hibernation, and leaves many orphaned cubs that die of starvation, exposure, and predation after their mothers are shot, are the main reasons it should not be permitted.

It is illegal to intentionally shoot a female bear with cubs, but when hunting it is impossible to be certain of whether or not a bear is male or female, and/or if she has cubs. Male bears usually come out of their dens earlier than females and females are usually smaller and usually have larger ears. However, these and similar indications are not always the rule, and it is easy to be mistaken. In addition to this, when waiting for a bear at a baiting station, many hunters will shoot the first one that comes along, without trying to determine if it is a male or female.

As a result, roughly 30 % of the bears hunted during Ontario’s spring hunt were females, and many would have had cubs. It is almost impossible for the young bears, usually born in January, to survive on their own in the wild, and it is impossible to prevent females with young from being shot without banning the spring hunt.

During the spring hunt bears are usually baited using a barrel with rotten meat or sweets, such as pastries or doughnuts, to attract the bear to a specific location. Food is restocked and the bear will keep returning to the supply for as long as it lasts. Bears emerging from hibernation are hungry and food is not always plentiful, making the available bait very appealing.

For the first four weeks, the baiting site is used to give hounds the scent of a bear. They then follow the scent and chase down the bear, giving hunters an easy target. Sometimes the hounds will come across young bears, and will tear them apart and kill them.

For the remaining weeks, hunters shoot bears right at the baiting stations, in a practice similar to penned hunting. The bear, returning to a food site it has begun to use regularly, is an easy target. The practice eliminates the concept of the “fair chase” that is fundamental to hunting but many outfitters use it to guarantee clients the opportunity to shoot a bear.

Another problem with baiting is that it encourages bears, which are usually solitary and roam for great distances, to congregate near the site. This unnatural behaviour can cause fighting between bears. It also teaches them the habit of looking to humans for their food instead of relying on their natural instincts. This teaches them to seek easy food and accustoms them to being around humans, making them more likely to become “nuisance” bears, searching for food near human dwellings and posing a risk to the public.

Because of the orphaning of bears, the high mortality rate of these cubs, and the unethical and harmful practice of baiting, CFHS approves of the ban on the spring hunt and encourage the government to keep the ban in place. This is the only way of preventing cubs from being orphaned and will protect the 75, 000 to 100, 000 bears that roam Ontario’s wilderness.

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