A committee struck up last Friday to look into Ontario’s nuisance bear problem may be key to getting the spring bear hunt reinstated here, said Mayor Glenn Witherspoon.
“The timing is of the essence here. The new premier [Ernie Eves] promised to reinstate the spring bear hunt, an issue of interest to tourist operators for sure,” said Mayor Witherspoon, who was appointed to the committee.
“We have a need for it in the north, but no economic study has been done before,” he added, referring to the fact the committee will review the biology, literature, and geographic and socio-economic factors relating to perceived nuisance bear problems in Ontario.
It also will look at the municipal impacts and compare the effects of bear harvesting from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
“Hopefully, something will be coming down the pipe very quickly,” said Mayor Witherspoon.
The mayor noted Natural Resources minister Jerry Ouellette chose him for the committee after seeing a presentation he had done at the annual conference of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario last month.
The committee, which will begin meeting soon, will be chaired by Royal Poulin, former general manager of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund and current chair of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.
Other committee members include John Knight, a professor in the Wildlife Department at Sir Sandford Fleming College, and Dr. Martyn Obbard, a Ministry of Natural Resources biologist and nationally-renowned bear biologist.
“I am very pleased that we have been able to put together a committee of this calibre to review all aspects of the nuisance bear issue in Ontario,” said Ouellette.
“The committee will define the scope of its work, including consultation and input from across Ontario.”
To help alleviate nuisance bear problems in parts of Ontario, a proposal to allow for the chasing of bears with dogs will be posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry.
This proposed change would allow daytime pursuit, chase, and search for bears, but would not permit the capturing or killing of them.
A number of U.S. states currently permit dogs to be used to chase bears, including Michigan, Maine, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, and West Virginia.
The public is invited to comment to the ministry on the proposal.