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:
- In certain areas of Ontario bears will be hunted 5.5 months of the year.
- 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%.
- Although it was illegal to kill a mother bear with 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:
- 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.
- 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.
The Facts – Sault-Ste-Marie Statistics (source data: Freedom of Information)
Bear Family Group (Rogers, 2000)
Sociological and Ethical Considerations of Black Bear Hunting (Beck et al, 1996)
Bears and Politicians – Jim Johnston
Spring Bear Hunt Print ad (2014 Niagara Falls By-Election)
Election booklet – Kathleen Wynne (2014 Ontario General Election)
How You Can Help
- Learn more about the hunt and about bear rehabilitation
- Send a personal letter to your member of the Ontario provincial legislator (see MPP contact info)
- Contact the Premier and speak out!
Premier Doug Ford
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1
Express your outrage. Demand an end to the province’s War on Wildlife.