Ontario Spring Bear Hunt

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UPDATE:  Click here to read our July 2014 – Report to Members

The Issue:

Until 1999, thousands of black bears were killed when they came out of hibernation in the spring, baited with garbage food and hunted down by dogs.

From 1995 to 1999, Animal Alliance campaigned
with a coalition of organizations to stop this cruel practice.

On January 15, 1999, Minister John Snobelen
announced an end to the spring bear hunt in Ontario.

In November 2013, Ontario’s Premier, Kathleen Wynne ignored the government’s own science and announced a partial reintroduction.


Votes in northern Ontario.

Now black bears will be killed as they come out of hibernation – when they are most vulnerable – when females have nursing cubs.



Prior to 1999, black bears in Ontario were hunted in both the spring and the fall.  The spring hunt ran from April 15 to June 15 and as late as June 30th in some locations, and the fall hunt from September 1 to November 30th.

Black bears were the only big game species targeted in the spring when emerging from hibernation and when mature females would have nursing young.  Although it was illegal to kill mother bears with very young cubs but it happened.  According to a paper by Ken Morrison a former wildlife specialist with the OMNR, acknowledges orphaning when he states, “70% of cubs orphaned during spring seasons died before one year of age” (Status of Black Bears Harvested in Wildlife Management Units 39, 41 and 42, Ken Morrison, Wildlife Specialist, OMNR, October 1996, pg 7).

On January 15, 1999, The Minister of Natural Resources the Honourable John Snobelen announced an end to the spring bear hunt.  The Minister’s press release stated, “The government made the decision to move to end the spring bear hunt because it will not tolerate cubs being orphaned by hunters mistakenly shooting mother bears in the spring.”

The release continued: “Many people have told us that the way the hunt is conducted and the inevitable loss of some cubs is unacceptable,” Mr. Snobelen said. “We have reviewed current practices and considered modifications; but none provide assurance that young bears and their mothers would be protected as they emerge from their dens in the spring. Stopping the hunt is the only protection for the animals.”

In November of 2013, the Liberal government under Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the resumption of the spring bear hunt.  So again Animal Alliance is campaigning with a coalition of organizations to stop this cruel practice.

Facts about hunting bears in the spring:

  1. In certain areas of Ontario bears will be hunted 5.5 months of the year.
  2. Bears hunted in the spring are vulnerable and less able to defend themselves because of weight loss during hibernation.  Most bears lose 15 to 30% of their body weight and females with newborn cubs may lose as much as 40%.
  3. Although it was illegal to kill a mother bear wit cubs, the Minister’s own staff estimated that 274 bear cubs were orphaned in the spring as a result of the hunt.  The newly introduced spring hunt also makes it illegal but hunters have a great deal of trouble determining whether the bears they kill are male or female and whether the females are nursing mothers.  This new hunt will orphan baby bears who will suffer a prolonged and agonizing death by starvation.

Facts about hunting bears over bait:

  1. Due to weight loss during hibernation, bears are ravenous when they emerge in the spring.  Females who have dependent cubs and therefore have greater demands on their bodies are driven even harder to find food.
  2. Bait piles offer offer easy pickings at a time of year when food is in short supply and attract bears who are normally wary of human scent.  So hunters know that they have to set out bait piles every day well in advance of the start of hunting season to acclimate the bears to human food and human scent.

Female bears who frequent bait sites leave their cubs in the safety of “babysitting trees” as other bears may also be present.

Legal Documents:

May 8, 2014 – Decision

April 25, 2014 – Respondent’s Factum

April 24, 2014 – Applicant’s Factum

April 23, 2014 – Respondent’s Application Record

April 2014 Affidavits (for supporting Exhibits, please contact our office)

Dr. Beecham Affidavit

Jim Johnston Affidavit

David Kenney Affidavit

Mike McIntosh Affidavit

Liz White Affidavit

Julie Woodyer Affidavit

April 14, 2014 – Notice of Constitutional Question

April 14, 2014 – Notice of Application to Divisional Court for Judicial Review

Background Information – David Estrin, Julie Woodyer and Liz White

Additional Material:

April 17, 2014 Media Release – Groups seek legal remedies to stop re-introduction of the Ontario Spring Bear Hunt

The Facts – Sault Ste. Marie Statistics (source data: Freedom of Information)

Do public conplaints reflect trends in human-bear conflicts Obbard et al (2010 study)

Appendix 10 – OMNR Impact of Hunting on Nuisance Complaints (2003 study)

Bear Family Group (Rogers, 2000)

Colorado Division of Wildlife – 1996 letter

Sociological and Ethical Considerations of Black Bear Hunting (Beck et al, 1996)


Bears and Politicians – Jim Johnston

2013 Bear With Us Media Release

WatchDog Quotations

“Dear Friend” letter

Action Mailer

2014 Niagara Falls By-Election Material:

Spring Bear Hunt Print ad

Spring Bear Hunt Radio ad (mp3)

Radio ad – MNR attack (mp3)

Radio ad – climate change (mp3)

Radio ad – endangered species (mp3)

2014 Ontario General Election Material:

Election booklet – Kathleen Wynne

Election booklet – David Orazietti

Print ad – David Orazietti

Radio ad – Andrew Olivier (mp3)

Radio ad – David Orazietti (mp3)

Radio ad – Jamie Burton (mp3)

What You Can Do:

  1. Learn more about the hunt and about bear rehabilitation
  2. Send a personal letter to your member of the provincial legislator (see MPP contact info)
  3. Send letters to the editor of your local papers
  4. Phone into local radio talk shows
  5. Use social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) to spread the word and help stop the spring bear hunt. Use the hashtag #springbearhunt to follow the discussion
  6. Download and sign our petition to the Government of Ontario. Get friends & relatives to do the same.  Completed forms can be mailed to our office.

And contact the Premier:

Premier Kathleen Wynne
Room 281, 111 Wellesley Street West
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1

Tel:  416-325-1941
Email:  kwynne.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Express your outrage.  Demand an end to Premier Wynne’s War on Wildlife.