John Kaplanis, executive director of the Northwestern Ontario Sportsmen's Alliance, believes the reinstatement of the spring bear hunt would be the best solution to resolve bear management issues in the region. He supports Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro's private members bill, but is not optimistic of the chances of it becoming reality.
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A provincial bill to expand the bear hunt in Ontario has the support of at least one area outdoorsman.
The private member's bill is being introduced at Queen's Park by MPP Bill Mauro (Lib. Thunder Bay - Atikokan). The legislation is asking for the hunt to be expanded, rather than calling for the reinstatement of the spring hunt in an effort to have more solutions put forward.
Northwestern Ontario Sportsmen’s Alliance executive director John Kaplanis appreciates the initiative, but has tempered his expectations.
“We’re very happy with Mr. Mauro’s private member's bill, but we acknowledge the chance of it making it to fruition and seeing any return of spring dates for bear hunting is a very slim chance,” Kaplanis said.
“However, what his private members bill achieves is pointing out to his government the very real need we have in the north for more intensive black bear management through hunting and we’re not getting that with our current fall bear hunt.”
In the bill, Mauro intentionally did not make mention of the either the spring or fall season, instead advocating for a general expansion of the hunt.
Mauro wants to avoid the risk that the direct reference to the spring bear hunt would spook other MPPs from supporting the motion.
Kaplanis firmly believes the benefits of a spring hunt far outweigh what can be accomplished in the fall.
“I really don’t think there is any better alternative to bear management than the spring bear hunt,” he said. “The current fall bear hunt ends October 31 and by that time many bear hunters have left the woods and many bears have denned up.”
One of the main reasons Mauro cited in his bill was the risk that bear populations have placed on society. He directly cited public safety as a primary reason for introducing his bill.
Kaplanis corroborated that belief, saying there have been more human encounters with bears since the spring hunt was canceled in 1999.
“The nuisance encounters have not only gone up, but also the dangerous encounters,” Kaplanis explained.
“Part of the rationale is that dangerous encounters are on the rise, and we can’t shake loose of that fact. We’re concerned that somebody, potentially a child, could get hurt. It’s about getting the population down and reducing these occurrences.”
Recently the city’s tourism department released a report detailing how the number of anglers and hunters traveling to the region have been steadily decreasing.
With this tourism void in mind, Kaplanis feels this is another reason why the reinstatement of the spring hunt would be beneficial to the region.
“Ontario is competing in a tough tourism market in all things, not just hunting and angling,” he said. “But, when you look at provinces like Manitoba and Quebec they host the spring bear hunt and they’re taking millions of dollars out of Ontario’s hands.”
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