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I wonder how many people are aware of the cruel repercussions of a spring black bear hunt? I'm writing to say that I find the Ministry of Natural Resource's decision to reopen the hunt sorely lacking, both in compassion and sound judgment.

Anyone familiar with the history of spring bear hunts knows that, following every hunting season, many bear cubs were found orphaned. Those cubs fortunate enough to be captured were doomed to spend the rest of their lives confined in some zoo or other. However, even rescued cubs were sometimes destroyed when zoos couldn't accommodate them all. But cubs not rescued certainly died of starvation which, sadly, is the likely fate of most orphaned bears. As Minister of Natural Resources, David Orazietti had a responsibility to know the consequences of a spring hunt before sanctioning yet another one.

The tragedy of orphaned bear cubs was resolved years ago when Premier Mike Harris banned the hunt. Before that, mother bears were frequently shot by mistake, leaving their young families with no hope of survival. The reason is this: although there was no open season on female bears, wide variations occur in the size and shape of these animals, regardless of gender. Often, it's impossible to identify a male bear from a female simply by its appearance, especially at a distance or in poor light. Sow bears generally hide their cubs before approaching a bait so hunters are unlikely see the young animals. The one and only way to remedy this problem was to eliminate the hunt, which Mr. Harris did. Now the Liberal Government of Ontario has seen fit to restore it.

Bear-regularOstensibly, a new spring hunt is meant to reduce the number of problem bears. But few bears cause problems. Those that do ought to be dealt with individually and not by opening a season on the whole species. Like any other species, bears need to be left unmolested while they raise their families.

Another odious aspect of the spring hunt is the common practice of baiting. To attract bears, hunters generally set out barrels of stinking meat well in advance of the hunt. By the time the season begins, bears have become accustomed to feeding at the bait. Hunters simply hide nearby and wait until an unsuspecting bear comes along. Other game species are protected from baiting. Why not bears? The ugly business of baiting has nothing to do with real hunting. Mindless target practice is all it amounts to; much the same as shooting in a feed lot.

Hunters claim to be more educated these days; better able to recognize the sex of bears than in the past. But that claim has yet to be demonstrated. I'm a professional artist, specializing in the portrayal of wild animals. Over the years, I've studied the anatomy of black bears in detail and have made many pictures of them. I'm able to portray these animals with precision. Still, I can't always recognize a male bear from a female with absolute certainty. Speaking from my own experience, hunters can't either - not positively.

As a young, aspiring artist, I spent a day or two each week studying the animals at the old Riverdale Zoo in Toronto. While the spring bear hunt was in progress, with no exception, orphaned black bear cubs would annually fill a large room in the zoo's barn. A more appalling sight would be hard to imagine, with several of these animals, all wailing loudly for their dead mothers. I've never forgotten the anguish of those creatures or the disgust I felt at their needless suffering. Regardless, in the name of sport, Mr. Orazietti has callously sanctioned this hunt, which is currently underway.

Before being appointed, it would seem reasonable that the Minister of Natural Resources demonstrate certain credentials; a degree of empathy for wild animals perhaps, some wildlife management expertise as well. But if Mr. Orazietti has such qualifications, what part of empathy or expertise inspired the resurrection of this ill-advised hunt? I suggest the real issue here has little to do with hunting. Mr. Orazietti is clearly more concerned with politics and a few extra votes than the sacrifice of hapless bears and humane wildlife stewardship. No matter, his decision was reprehensible. There is not and never was any justification for a spring bear hunt in Ontario.

Resuming the hunt is just one more in a long list of political blunders made by a Liberal government, infamous for its inept leadership. The Liberal legacy of incompetence has damaged, not only this province, but the Liberal Party itself. Mr. Orazietti needs to put an end to this hunt because, by any standard of human decency, it is brutal. Why not return a little credibility to a government many taxpayers, myself included, are entirely fed-up with?


George McLean
Grey County


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