Two animal advocacy groups are taking the government to court in an attempt to stop the return of Ontario’s cruel and pointless spring bear hunt, which is set to start on May 1.
In a move that some believe has more to do with politics than bear management, the government announced earlier this month that it would be bringing the spring hunt back with a pilot program that is set to run for six weeks in eight wildlife areas. The goal of the program is to reduce the number of nuisance bears and conflicts with people, but animal advocates are arguing that the only thing it will accomplish is orphaning bear cubs who will die a slow death alone without their mothers.
Following heavy campaigning by animal advocates, the spring hunt was previously cancelled in 1999 when the then-natural resources minister stated that ending it was the only acceptable way to ensure cubs would not being orphaned.
Cubs are only a few weeks old when they leave their dens in the spring and are completely dependent on their mothers for survival. The Animal Alliance of Canada and Zoocheck Canada are now challenging the hunt in court, arguing that the suffering of orphaned bear cubs will be inevitable, which violates animal cruelty laws under the current Criminal Code.
Julie Woodyer, Campaign Director for Zoocheck Canada stated:
“The spring bear hunt is cruel. Bears come out of hibernation and are extremely hungry because they have not eaten all winter. They are attracted to garbage food (fryer oil, rotten meat, and stale donuts) set out in bait piles by hunters who want an assured kill. One third of these feeding bears are female, many with tiny cubs. Often the female bears hide the cubs before approaching the bait site or kill zone. Despite being illegal for hunters to kill female bears with cubs, inevitably it happens and orphaned cubs are left to starve to death.”
Despite conflicting opinions from scientists about the effectiveness of the spring hunt, the fact that there is no effective way to ensure mother bears aren’t killed, and the unethical practices of baiting and hunting with dogs, the government is insisting that it is the only way to reduce conflicts.
According to the Nuisance Bear Review Committee, there was no connection between the cancellation of the spring bear hunt and increases in nuisance activity. What did affect the number of bear incidents was the amount of natural food they had available. The committee further stated that the “root cause of nuisance activity by black bears is attraction to sources of human food or waste that is easily accessible by bears.”
That alone should make it clear that a spring hunt is unnecessary and people can take actions on their own to reduce the likelihood of trouble and ensure bears don’t become habituated to us.
While the case is set to be heard in court on April 29, animal advocates are still urging the government to cancel the hunt and recommit to the Bear Wise program, which has reduced conflicts where it has been properly implemented through education and prevention programs.
Please sign and share the petition urging Premier Kathleen Wynne to stop the spring bear hunt.
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