U.S. hunters may be invited to help control Ontario's bear population
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