Bear Outfitters to Receive 2017 Allocation Letters Soon

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Bear Outfitters to Receive 2017 Bear Allocation Letters Soon
Letter to Bear Outfitters December 20, 2016
From Laurie Marcil, NOTO Executive Director

NOTO has been meeting with MNRF for a good number on months now regarding the allocation of Form 33s for bear outfitters for the 2017 bear hunting seasons. Most recently we met in North Bay to go over the data that they had and review a proposal from them on how they would like to proceed for the 2017 bear hunt seasons as well as a long term plan to deal with these allocations to tourism in the future.
As a result of a large increase in resident bear hunters and harvest numbers in the 2015 season, (2016 numbers are still not available), MNRF is reluctant to distribute more Form 33s to bear outfitters. The population numbers that MNRF are using are from 2008 which causes concern as many of us feel strongly that bear population numbers have changed since 2008 in many areas across the Province.
Resident bear hunter numbers have gone from approximately 16,000 in 2013 to approximately 22,000 in 2015, no doubt because of the reduction in the availability of moose tags.  Since 2013, the resident harvest numbers for black bears have gone from approximately 2,400 bears in 2013 to 3,800 bears in 2015. This is a substantial increase especially considering that apparently only 50% of resident hunters actually comply with mandatory reporting.
Most of the resident hunting pressure is of course seen in Northeastern Ontario, a cause for great concern for bear outfitters in this region. We have opposed a knee-jerk reaction from MNRF to reduce Form 33s for bear outfitters as they are huge contributors to the Northern economy as well as the fact that bear outfitters pay for bear management area fees annually to bring in non-resident guests to have the opportunity to hunt bear.   
MNRF have indicated that they are very much aware that bear outfitters contribute substantially to the economy and to the stewardship and conservation of black bears in Ontario and are looking for ways to ensure that these businesses can continue to participate in the spring and fall bear hunts.
They will be sending out letters to all Bear Management Area holders indicating their allocations of Form 33s for the 2017 bear hunt seasons. These figures will be based on the average number of forms that each operator received in 2012, 2013 and 2014 or the number of forms that they received for the 2015 fall hunt. Whichever is higher.  
I know that this approach last year caused some problems for operators and have pushed to have a mechanism in place for operators to bring their concerns forward. We have been assured that opportunities to raise concerns would be made available. At this point, we believe District offices will be handling these calls.
We are not done yet, by any measure, we are now continuing our discussions with MNRF about a better system of allocation for the tourism industry for the future.  
We would very much appreciate any updates from you, once you get your letters, about any affect (good or bad) that it will have on your business for the coming year. We would also like to hear your thoughts on what process for future allocations will ensure a sustainable bear population while providing opportunities for bear outfitters to continue to offer hunting experiences for non-resident guests.
We realize that not all of you are members of NOTO but would like to encourage you to provide us your feedback so that our discussions with Government remain representative of the bear outfitting industry. I as always welcome any discussion regarding membership within NOTO. Early Bird rates for 2017 are now up on our website for your consideration. Your support will help to keep the industry’s voice strong and effective.
Laurie Marcil
Executive Director

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