New Opportunities to Hunt Bear – An MNR Pilot

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See the video recording of Minister Orazietti’s greetings from the NOTO Conference on our website

New Opportunities to Hunt Bear – An MNR Pilot
As you are aware the Minister of Natural Resources, David Orazietti recently announced a pilot project that would allow residents of Ontario to participate in a limited spring bear hunt from May 1st to June 15th in 2014 and 2015. Currently it appears that this opportunity to hunt bear will only be available in specific Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) surrounding the five large cities in northern Ontario (Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins, Sudbury and North Bay). The WMUs that are part of this initiative are 13, 14, 29, 30, 36, 39, 41 and 42.
NOTO President Bob Garson attended the Minister’s announcement and had the opportunity to speak briefly with him. The Minister apologized that there was nothing in this announcement for tourism. This is apparent by the ministry’s exclusion of non-residents as well as the exclusion of vast regions of wilderness outside the large urban centres of Northern Ontario. MNR indicated that the purpose of this pilot is one of public safety to assist in the reduction of bear and human encounters.
Since the announcement was made, NOTO has been trying to learn more about how this opportunity to hunt bear will be implemented. For example, will there be limits on the number of bear that can be harvested? May it include opportunities to hunt bear in unorganized townships outside of the large cities? How will BMA’s be affected? When will we have more answers?
Clearly MNR has more work to do and details to determine before this May and we are engaging them now to learn more for you. Our most recent discussions revealed that once the municipalities indicate whether they support the initiative or not, there will be a period of public consultation. We will keep you abreast of when and how this public consultation will occur. As you can imagine, this will not leave much time to market any opportunities to resident hunters for this year if operators choose to do so.
NOTO has raised a number of concerns with MNR and the media since the announcement. While we are encouraged that MNR is considering a hunt as a management tool, we are not pleased that the industry was not consulted. In addition to the important issue of public safety, MNR has so far missed the opportunity to ensure a “spring hunt” maximizes the economic return to the people and economy of Northern Ontario. The approach being proposed devalues bear as an important big game animal to the province.
While the initiative may appear somewhat spontaneous, uncertain and ineffective, we need to work closely with government to make the most of this very limited opportunity and continue to work toward something that is more complete and beneficial to the industry. It is important that we recognize recent movements on the part of our provincial government including Bill Mauro’s Private Members Bill that acknowledge a spring hunt as a sound approach to bear management.
While the opportunity is limited especially for this year given the lack of time to market, there could be resident hunters outside of Northern Ontario who would be interested in the services and expertise of an outfitter, especially if it is their first time hunting bear in Northern Ontario.
The NOTO office has received a couple of calls from resident hunters looking for a list of tourist operators that may be offering spring bear hunt packages. If you are planning to offer these services, please let us know so that we may direct people to you. As we learn more details about the pilot project, we will continue to share the information with our members.
Laurie MarcilExecutive

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