Ontario to resume its annual spring bear hunt starting in the 2021 season. The long-awaited decision was announced in March 13 on the Environmental Registry of Ontario Posting 019-1112. Meanwhile, this spring, the pilot project hunt will resume its final year.
The decision to reinstate the hunt took into account concerns regarding low bear populations in Grey and Bruce Counties. As a result, the spring seasons in Wildlife Management Units 82A, 83 and 84 will only be open from May 1 to May 7, and be closed in the fall, effective this spring. In all other areas open to bear hunting in Ontario, the spring season will remain the same, from May 1 to June 15.
Starting 2021, resident bear hunters will only be required to file a single report instead of one for both spring and fall. This will be required so long as they bought a bear licence, even if they did not participate in a hunt or harvest an animal. The new season will also eliminate the special hunting opportunities for non-resident landowners and non-residents hunting with an immediate relative. It will also require persons providing hunting services to residents within a bear management area to obtain a Licence to Provide Bear Hunting Services.
This announcement brings the spring bear hunt back full circle after its abrupt cancellation prior to the spring bear hunt of 1999. The ERO posting for regarding the spring bear hunt proposal inspired great interest, receiving 8,156 comments in the 32-day public-comment period that began on January 17.
Science-based bear management
“This is obviously a really important decision for the OFAH. We’ve been advocating tirelessly for a return of the hunt since 1999 and have always made the case that this was never a sustainability concern. This marks the return of an important hunting tradition and the return of an important economic driver for northern and rural communities as well as a return of an important tool in the bear management toolbox. We will continue to advocate for science-based bear management that ensures future bear conservation and maximum sustainable bear hunting opportunities,” said OFAH Wildlife Biologist Keith Munro.
In a separate ERO posting, the minimum distance required for placing black bear bait to be reduced from the current 200 metres to 30 metres, starting in the 2020 bear hunting season. The posting requires baiting to consider rights of way for public vehicular traffic, as well as marked and maintained recreational trails.
“The OFAH has always maintained that the required buffers around bait sites were unnecessarily large and needlessly limited bear-hunting opportunity. We’re pleased to see the buffer around right of ways and maintained trails reduced from 200 metres to 30 metres. We will work to make sure that other restrictions around public buildings and dwellings are also re-evaluated,” Munro further added.