By Paul Glendenning, Hamilton
Sustainable populations of black bears do not mean static. An equal birth/death ratio is impossible, and nature is not a ledger, but has fluctuations that are natural.
One concern many Ontarians have is the orphaning of cubs which does occur and is an unnecessary casualty of a spring bear hunt. But there is also its ineffectiveness, lack of necessity and ethical issues, as well as unnecessary harm to our black bear populations.
The hunt is ineffective because it targets the large males that bring stability to a population and does nothing for the young who are most likely to enter towns and can be conditioned through non-lethal hazing.
The spring bear hunt is unnecessary because there is no population explosion, and what we do know seems to indicate a static population level. There are also ethical issues. The orphaning of cubs happens regardless of the intent by many hunters not to kill females. But there is also the destabilization of populations by taking out dominant males. This further slows mating, and black bears are the second slowest breeding species in North America. There is also the baiting of bears newly awakened and starving that are no match for baiting stations. It is a lazy way to hunt and have not proven to be any advantage in determining gender.
We also have poor record-keeping as actual bears killed is determined only by a voluntary report by hunters, and those who do not follow the rules are unlikely to tell authorities.
Black bears are not the threat being portrayed, and in over 100 years have only killed seven people; meanwhile hunters killed more than 5,000 bears in Ontario in 2012 alone.
We have a good plan in place, if properly reinstituted, which includes relocation of wandering bears and is a real sustainable solution. A spring bear hunt is no answer and will not make our communities safe.