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.