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Cuddly looking bears can cause serious safety issues

By Kelsey Gould, Ancaster

As humans, we have a tendency to perceive birth as positive and death as negative.

Although, in terms of wildlife, it is important to remember that a sustainable population is one with an equal amount of births and deaths. After reading several oppositional views about the upcoming spring bear hunt, I would like to contribute an objective opinion based on science.

One of the concerns that many animal rights activists has expressed is the effect the harvest will have on bear cubs.  However, the Ministry of Natural Resources has placed many parameters on the hunt stating, “The harvest of bear cubs and female bears accompanied by a cub or cubs would be prohibited during this season,” ensuring older males are the primary targets.Furthermore, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters point out that before the termination of the harvest, of the bears hunted, 70 per cent were males. This is beneficial to cubs because adult males are cannibalistic, killing several cubs per year.

Furthermore, we must consider the recent increase in human-bear interactions. Residents of Northern Ontario are weary of their safety, which is warranted seeing that black bear populations in Ontario are now estimated to be over 100,000. With this population, the ministry suggests a harvest rate of 10 per cent is sustainable, but the current level is a mere six to eight per cent.  That brings us to the goal of the harvest — to respond to the concerns of northern communities, thereby increasing human safety while maintaining a sustainable black bear population.  Other methods have been suggested to achieve this goal, such as relocation of bears, or reducing the availability of food in areas utilized by people.

If only it were that simple.

Biologists have found that relocation, although an effective method for juvenile bears, is not effective for adults. Upwards of 79 per cent of adult bears return to the original site after relocation. Additionally, a study investigated the success of nonlethal deterrent methods, including yelling, pepper spray, 12-gauge rubber buckshots, rubber slugs, exposure to cracker shells and dogs. Results? The majority of bears return within one month.

In essence, the cuddly bears we all imagine have the potential to cause serious safety issues, which we need to address.

Therefore, I endorse the spring bear harvest, which has proven to be both an effective, and sustainable, outlet. I also encourage members of the public to think critically about claims they hear about wildlife management as it is overwhelmingly easy to become entangled in the emotionality of events rather than examining them objectively.


One Response to “Cuddly looking bears can cause serious safety issues”

  1. jim says:

    Regarding the opinion on ‘cuddly looking bears’ I don’t see or hear any of the animal rights activists portraying bears like that. The writer suggest that he would like to contribute an objective opinion based on science. Who’s science is he using? Certainly none of the top bear researchers that I deal with who have all had over 35 years of field research experience studying Black Bears would disagree with most of the comments. What objective scientist describes wild bears as cuddly? Regarding cannibalism, very few cubs are lost to attacks from male bears, females are pretty good at protecting their offspring, but yes it does happen. Yet in 1999, the last year of the hunt, over 200 orphaned cubs were turned in to the 3 bear refuges in Ontario and those were only the ones found and brought in to a refuge, how many died from starvation in the bush? The only partially accurate comment was the fact that trap and relocate is not that effective in most cases but aversive conditioning and hazing at the site of a problem can keep that bear in it’s territory but away from the site of the problem. Removing food to reduce nuisance bear activity..”if only it were that simple”…yes it is! I have facilitated a Bear Wise program for the City of Elliot Lake for a decade now…& yes it works as does Western Canada’s Bear Smart programs when properly implemented. Neither the provinces 2003 Nuisance Bear Review Committee(that included 9 Northerners many of whom were hunters)agreed that a Spring Bear Hunt had little to no impact on nuisance bear activity. As well the aforementioned long term researchers also state the a spring hunt would also have little to no impact on public safety or property damage issues. Not one of the key spokes persons supporting the hunt have to my knowledge had any field research experience with Black Bears & if I am correct their area of study was in Ornithology! So I ask..whose science are you using? I know Bear Wise works, as a hunter & a Northerner I would like to see more people get the true facts about bears before commenting.

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