The sad truth is Ontario black bears are
today becoming recognized for their “nuisance value”. Excess bears in
growing numbers are invading northern communities, looking for food.
Some excess bears are relocated; most are eventually indiscriminately
destroyed and wasted. One strike and you’re out!
Mainly because in 1999 the Harris Government ignored the principles of
scientific wildlife management and sustainable use, caved in to the
threats of the “Bear Alliance” (Animal Rights Groups) and cancelled a
valuable Black Bear management tool, the “spring bear hunt”.
Meanwhile, approximately one fifth of Ontario (cottage/bear country) is
challenged with the huge problem, what to do with the excess bears? The
inaction of the current “McGuinty Government” to reinstate the spring
hunt has added to this serious excess bear problem.
FoF believes Ontario black bears should once again be recognized for
their “economic, trophy, and esthetic value” rather than considered a
nuisance to be shot and wasted (eliminated). The social, economic and
wildlife management benefits of our black bear natural resource are
worth millions of dollars annually. Our tax dollars should not be
The responsibility to effectively deal with Ontario’s current huge
excess bear problem falls directly on the McGuinty Government’s
shoulders. Failure to act according to the scientific evidence
supporting the reinstatement of the spring hunt is perhaps a bigger
mistake than the initial cancellation.
“Our aim is to enhance and preserve the Cultures that surround the fur
trade, to educate and inform”. Therefore FoF is proud to present the
following proposal in the best interest of the Black Bears and the
people of Ontario.
This Government knows better and must be held accountable!
Please take the time to read this proposal and subsequently let your MPP
know exactly how you feel. Tell them to consider the overwhelming
“scientific evidence” accept their responsibility and act accordingly.
Exercise due diligence to deal effectively with literally thousands of
excess bears annually.
To help you contact your MPP please click on this link;
Eldon Hawton President Friends of Fur
Murray Monk Honorary Vice President – Advisor To The President
Wayne Huber Honorary Vice President – Advisor To The President
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For a more detailed summary of the events
surrounding the spring bear hunt cancellation, with your internet access
open please click on this link, (Jim Lawrence COHA article titled
“How political pressure cancelled Ontario’s spring black bear hunt”)
posted on IWMC World Conservation Trust Website: Click on link
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Equally Share Ontario’s Excess Bears
Prepared & presented in partnership by:
Murray Monk Trapper/Moose/Bear Hunter
Eldon Hawton Moose/Deer/Bear Hunter, former Trapper
“True caretakers of nature”
From September 2004
"Government “skeleton” reveals bears were “eliminated” from “former
range” (519, 416, 905 area codes); “As recently as 1961, bounties were
offered on black bears in Ontario…""
You simply cannot stockpile wildlife, it is that simple. Make no mistake
about it, Ontario's bear "population density" at least in some areas has
clearly exceeded the carrying capacity of the land and it will get
worse, much worse!
It takes five to six years for female bears to have cubs, so this
accounts for why we have yet to see the real effects of "increased
population density" due to the cancellation of the spring bear hunt in
1999. We are now just entering the period when the numbers of females
bearing cubs will begin to compound upward as the years unfold.
Other than regulated hunting, road kills, rail kills, and those killed
to protect livestock and humans, bears in Ontario have virtually no
other natural predators. Bears sleep (hibernate) throughout the barren
winter months and seem immune to the many diseases that control excess
numbers of most other wildlife populations.
Overcrowded hungry bears forced to invade urban areas in search of
something to eat are “symptoms of problems" due to the spring hunt
cancellation. Too many bears confined to a small portion of Ontario,
without an adequate year after year food supply and bears loosing their
fear of man.
Conservation/hunting/trapping groups such as COHA, NOSA, OFMF, OFAH and
others including municipal leaders, since 1999 have relentlessly lobbied
the Ontario Government; countless meetings, presentations, petitions
including “court actions” calling for the return of the “spring bear
hunt” have failed to persuade the current McGuinty government to act
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Manitoba Bear Study
Additional strong support for the return
of the “spring bear hunt” is apparent and obvious following the most
recent Manitoba Bear Study:
“Using reproductive data to model American black bear cub orphaning in
Manitoba due to spring harvest of females”
Hank Hristienko1,3, Douglas Pastuck1,4,
Ken J. Rebizant1,5,
Brian Knudsen1,6, and M. Laurene Connor2,7
Conclusions and management implications
“The spring hunting season is a valuable wildlife management tool. It
can be used to reduce or maintain black bear populations at or below
biological or cultural carrying capacity, thereby reducing or
maintaining problem bear incidents at tolerable levels in a
cost-effective manner. The spring hunt provides a hunting season when
there are few other hunting opportunities, distributes hunting pressure
over a greater period, gives hunters the advantage of short and sparse
vegetation (which increases detectability of cubs with female bears),
selects against nursing females because they are less mobile and tend to
avoid areas of disturbance, supports the rural economy and the tourism
industry, offers hunters the opportunity to harvest an animal when its
coat is prime and the meat less fat and more palatable, reduces the
number of bears before the problem bear season rather than after it (in
nuisance situations, females accompanied with cubs are not exempt from
management kills or from persons defending their property or personal
safety), and is biologically sustainable.”
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Black Bear reduced to
We (the authors) of this proposal believe
that the once majestic Black Bear should not be reduced to “nuisance
value”. Therefore we agree with all the evidence suggesting that the
Ontario “spring bear hunt” must be reinstated.
We also agree with and support the principle of “sustainable use” of our
natural resources; which provides so many important social, economic and
wildlife management benefits, in terms of revenue valued in the
“millions” toward the Ontario economy, revenue/income so vitally
important to the livelihood of many northern Ontario people.
Despite all the scientific evidence, the
intense lobbying, the legal actions and so on, it appears “unlikely”
that the “spring bear hunt” will ever be reinstated.
Rather then making the right decisions,
based on the scientific facts, the McGuinty Government is most likely to
continue to listen and cater to the “perceived” emotional wishes of the
“misguided voters”, within the 519, 416, 905 area codes.
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Misinformed by the “Bear Alliance”, (a
group of like-minded “animal rights” supporters, including the Animal
Alliance of Canada, the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, the World
Wildlife Fund and of course the Schad Foundation). This group named
themselves the “Bear Alliance”, met and planned a concerted effort to
force the cancellation of the bear hunt. Later the Federation of Ontario
Naturalists withdrew from the Bear Alliance when it realized the whole
effort had little to do with conservation.
Due to the successful lobbying efforts of
the “Bear Alliance” we (residents of “cottage/bear country) are “forced”
to deal with the rapidly increasing “population density” and the
subsequent on going problem of “excess black bears”, currently
inhabiting and “reproducing” mainly the central portion of Ontario.
The below “Bear Wise - Ontario Bear
Density Map” shows the current distribution of Ontario bears; “The
central portion of this vast area, where the highest density of black
bears is found, is also Ontario's "cottage country”. So, are people
sharing the great outdoors with the bears? Or are the bears sharing
their home with people.”
“Bear Wise - Ontario
Bear Density Map”
Authors NOTE: “A portion of the 519
area code density ranges from 20-40 bears/100 km2 to 0 bears, while the
416, 905 area codes show 0 bears.
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Plenty of room for
Bears & Humans… MNR
To quote the MNR; “According to leading
wildlife specialists with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources,
there's plenty of room for all of us. With a little effort on the part
of humans, both species can `live and let live," says Mike Hall,
District Biologist with MNR in Sudbury.
This map suggests that clearly the
largest percentage of Ontario bears “40-60 bears/100km2”, (vast
majority) are concentrated into approx one fifth of the province sharing
their home with “people” from that relativly small area, the remainder
of the province shares the balance, density ranging from “20-40 to <20
bears/100km2” and most of southwestern Ontario has “0 bears/100km2”.
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distribution of bears
The MNR “density map” suggests that the
distribution of bears is clearly unfair in terms of, numbers of “bears
sharing their home with people”. This begs the question, why should
"cottage country” be the main area to house the majority of Ontario’s
We believe the “population density” of
bears should be equally shared with other people living in Ontario and
according to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, “there's plenty
of room for all of us”. The McGuinty Government should then seriously
consider the following plan to assist the current “natural migration” of
bears moving south, “returning” to their historical “former range”. Thus
allowing more Ontarians to “equally share Ontario’s excess bears”.
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At one time in history bears inhabited most of North America
including those areas covered by 519, 416, 905 area codes. The “MNR-
Bear Wise Density Map” shows that few, if any bears inhabit this area of
Why is this and how did it happen?
Ironically the people from that area used indiscriminate trapping,
shooting, and poisoning and had the black bears eliminated from that
Yet before we start “blamming” the
hunter/trapper, according to the history books, it seems they
(hunters/trappers) were encouraged, even paid by the Government, for “as
recently as 1961, bounties were offered on black bears in Ontario”.
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Government skeleton revealed
The supporting evidence can be found
within the pages of MNR’s own history book, coproduced by OMNR & OTA in
the late 80’s, released in 1987, titled: “WILD FURBEARER MANAGEMENT AND
CONSERVATION IN NORTH AMERICA • SECTION IV: SPECIES BIOLOGY,MANAGEMENT,
AND CONSERVATION page #443” Chapter 35, BLACK BEAR by; GEORGE B.
KOLENOSKY, STEWART M. STRATHEARN
“At one time black bears ranged throughout most of the North American
continent with the exception of the treeless barrens of northern Canada
and the desert regions of the southwestern United States (Seton 1929).
At present in Canada the species occupies about 85% of its historical
range. It has been “eliminated” from the more southerly regions of all
the provinces and does not occur on Prince Edward Island. It does not
occur in the tundra regions of the North, although transients
occasionally have been sighted on the barren lands.”
The book goes on to say:
“Since the advent of European settlement in North America, interactions
between humans and bears have been dominated by conflict, which has
resulted in systematic attempts to eliminate bears and their habitat. In
many instances the mere presence of bears has been regarded as a problem
to be dealt with through indiscriminate trapping, shooting, and
poisoning. This inevitably resulted in the “extirpation” of the species
from large parts of its “former range”, particularly the more populated
regions of the United States and southern Canada. Recognition of the
economic, trophy, and esthetic value of black bears has been slow,
especially in areas with sizable bear populations. As recently as 1961,
bounties were offered on black bears in Ontario, which has a large
population of bears.”
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migration to former range
Recently due to the overcrowded “carrying
capacity” of “bear/cottage country”, bears are forced to return to their
“former range”. Growing evidence that this is indeed “happening” is
reported in recent news stories. The following are a couple of examples.
What's that animal outside? A bear? Oh
deer! This article appeared in The Toronto Sun on August10, 2004.
Author: Connie Woodcock
Source: Toronto Sun
“Bears seem to be everywhere in Ontario
this summer -- as northern resident Shirley Brennan noted in this space
yesterday. There have been bears in Barrie; bears near London; bears
near Peterborough and one, amazingly, in Flamborough. That one somehow
crossed the 401, a ministry spokesman said.”
This article appeared in The
Kitchener-Waterloo Record on July 31, 2004
Nuisance bears are moving south
Author: Bill Thompson
Source: Kitchener-Waterloo Record
“If you think black bears were a nuisance
before, you ain't seen nothing yet.
In fact, since my June 26 column on the
increase in nuisance bear calls in Ontario, things have gotten worse.
And I'm not just talking about the traditional black bear haunts of
Case in point: on July 3 and 5, the
Guelph Mercury and The Record ran stories about black bear sightings in
the Guelph, Hamilton and Dundas areas. And a bear was shot at the edge
of Hamilton in July.
That's not all. The Ministry of Natural
Resources and the Ontario Provincial Police have reported bear sightings
in Erin, Limestone, Flamborough, Georgetown and even south of London.
And I have heard reports of bear sightings in Kitchener and Waterloo.
While most people think that sightings in
such non-traditional bear territory are nothing short of amazing, they
better get used to it. It's going to get worse because, in short, as the
bear population increases, more bears are moving south for food.
Before 1999, bear-hunting operators
baited areas in the spring and studies undertaken by Sudbury's
Laurentian University showed what hunters had been saying for years --
that the vast majority of bears that came to these areas were males.
When the hunts were cancelled, so was the
baiting. With hundreds of thousands of pounds of food taken out of the
food chain, the big males enforced the pecking order and pushed juvenile
males, females and cubs out of the top feeding areas. They went south to
dumps and other areas with food.”
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Landfill Bear Feeding-Stations
Currently many of the excess bears in
“bear/cottage country” depend on “landfill sites” (feeding stations) for
food. The following pictures show bears feeding in landfill sites
located near Biscotasing and Westree Ontario just north of Sudbury. This
day the Biscotasing landfill had seventeen (17) bears and the Westree
site was feeding six (6).
Details of Plan:
Rather than fence off these “feeding
stations” as suggested in MNR “Bear Wise” program, thus forcing bears to
look elsewhere for something to eat (including urban areas). We suggest
that these northern landfill sites would provide an excellent
opportunity (location) to catch bears for the “relocation program.”
Bears caught from these sites could then be transported (relocated) into
landfill sites (feeding stations) located in the areas currently with
the least “bear population density”, southern Ontario (519, 416, 905,
We suggest that the “wasted food” from
restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes and households dumped (by the many
tons) in landfill sites from this vast urban population, will provide an
adequate on-going food supply for the relocated bears. Therefore,
“relocated bears” would have very little reason to leave these “feeding
stations” and would most likely be content to live around these
“landfill sites” from early spring right through to hibernation.
Residents in close proximity to these
landfill sites (bear feeding stations) should have little to fear;
simply do as we are told here in “cottage/bear country” and adhere to
the four corner stones of the McGuinty Government’s “Bear Wise” program,
quote, “The Bear Wise program is based on four cornerstones - reporting,
response, prevention, and education and awareness”.
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Needed Government Action
We suggest that the McGuinty Government
should immediately add/implementing this component to their existing
comprehensive “Bear Wise” program.
Use the $900,000 currently in the budget
for such things as “landfill fencing”, toward developing and
implementing a cost effective “bear relocation element” as part of MNR’s
existing bear wise initiative dealing with the problem of excess
“bear/cottage country” bears.
Due to the problems these excess bears
have caused and the increase in nuisance bear calls/situations over the
past five years. We now have a large number of groups/individuals “Bear
Relocation Experts” who can assist with this “bear relocation element”
and subsequently will ensure the cost effectiveness of this important,
urgent and badly needed project.
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Needed Public Support
In spite of all the ever increasing
“excess bear” problems people in “cottage/bear country” are currently
forced to tolerate, combined with the on-going struggle (over the past
five years) to “share habitat” with bears.
In all the suggestions, proposals,
presentations and court actions, (“contrary to the legacy” of people
from 519, 416, 905 area codes), to our knowledge never was there ever
any mention that the “excess bear problems” should be dealt with by
“elimination, through indiscriminate trapping, shooting, and poisoning”,
no “bounty” was ever suggested nor contemplated.
Rather, advocates are simply asking that
their traditional, cost-effective, economically-beneficial, “wildlife
management tool” the “spring bear hunt” be returned to the benefit of
everyone. Restoring long overdue “recognition of the economic, trophy,
and esthetic value of black bears”.
We know this plan will make a “lot of
sense” to a lot of people including the general public, northern
municipalities and conservation minded groups and individuals.
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Expect Bear Alliance to
support (“bear relocation element”)
We also anticipate that “Animal Rights
Groups” including the Animal Alliance of Canada, the Federation of
Ontario Naturalists, the World Wildlife Fund and, of course the Schad
Foundation the “group” known as “the Bear Alliance” should welcome this
addition (“bear relocation element”) to their favored “BearWise” program
and will know doubt champion the idea of getting some of their beloved
bears much closer to home.
For example Barry Kent MacKay (animal
rights activist) was recently quoted in this North Bay Nugget news story
published July 8th 2004. The Nugget reports that; “Last month, the
Ontario government announced it would spend $900,000 on the Bear Wise
program to support community based bear prevention and public education
campaigns. Such as buying bear-resistant garbage containers and landfill
Such programs have been extremely effective in helping residents deal
with bear problems, said Barry Kent MacKay, director of the Animal
Alliance of Canada in Toronto.”
Relocation element good second choice
As an “alternative” to the McGuiny
Government doing the right thing and reinstating the “spring bear hunt”.
Many people/groups will know doubt see this proposal as an excellent
“second choice” and will want to express their support to have this new
“relocation element” added to the MNR “Bear Wise” plan.
Help us convince the McGuinty Government to do the right thing to
properly address this huge problem. Your opinion will only count if you
take the time to tell our elected MPP’s exactly what you think.
Please help support our “Proposal To
Equaly Share Ontario’s Excess Bears”.
MPP quick contact list
Please use this link, find your MPP,
Minister Ramsey, Dalton McGuinty and any other MPP you wish, send a
letter, fax, or email expressing your support. Link to MPP’s here.
Current Government (OMNR) Perspective:
Ontario’s Current Bear Situation Per MNR Bear Wise website:
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March 30, 2004
GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES BEAR WISE PROGRAM
TORONTO — The McGuinty government has
established a toll-free hotline as part of a new Bear Wise strategy to
help manage nuisance black bears and make communities safer, Natural
Resources Minister David Ramsay announced today, delivering on a promise
he made in December.
"People can call toll free 1-866-514-BEAR
(2327) 24 hours a day, seven days a week to report nuisance bear
problems," said Ramsay. "This is real positive change that will go a
long way toward easing the minds of people living in bear country and
make our communities safer."
The new phone line will handle nuisance
bear situations. In emergencies, the public should call 911 or police
"The best defense against nuisance bears
is education and prevention," said Ramsay. "Simple actions such as
bear-proofing your garbage, not leaving pet food outside and cleaning
outdoor grills can make a big difference in minimizing nuisance bear
The Bear Wise strategy is based on four
cornerstones - reporting, response, prevention, and education and
awareness - as the best way to reduce nuisance bear activity.
Ministry staff have also met with more
than 200 communities across Ontario and the Ontario Association of
Chiefs of Police to discuss ways of working together to prevent nuisance
"We all have a role to play in reducing human-bear conflicts," said
Ramsay. "By increasing awareness of how to avoid unintentionally feeding
bears, we will drastically reduce nuisance bear activity which will
improve the quality of life of everyone living in bear country."
Fact Sheet: Bear Management Strategy
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April 26, 2004
ONTARIO GOVERNMENT SIGNS PROTOCOL WITH POLICE ABOUT BEARS
Agreement Supported by the Ontario
Association of Chiefs of Police
SAULT STE. MARIE — The Ontario government
is making communities in bear country safer and stronger through a new
protocol with the Ontario Provincial Police about responding to bear
problems, Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay announced today.
"I'm very pleased we've reached this
agreement clarifying that police will respond to bear problems that pose
an immediate public safety threat," said Ramsay. "This will help the
public know who to call when dealing with bear problems, and should help
ease the minds of people living in bear country."
The protocol signed today clarifies roles
and responsibilities around responding to human-bear problems. Ontario
Provincial Police (OPP) will respond to emergency bear calls and will
call the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) for assistance if
necessary. MNR will respond to non-emergency bear calls. The Ontario
Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP), which represents municipal
police agencies and the OPP, supports the protocol and will encourage
member forces to use it as a template to reach agreements with municipal
"This is an important community safety
issue for many of the communities we serve, particularly in Northern
Ontario," said OACP President Chief Ean Algar. "We are pleased that by
working with the Ontario government, we have been able to put in place a
process that will ensure the safety of Ontarians when dealing with a
"The new protocol will help the OPP
improve upon the safety of people who are placed in danger by bears,"
said OPP Deputy Commissioner Maurice Pilon. "Every bear incident is
different and by providing a coordinated approach to assessing each
situation and potential response, we can also act in the best interests
of our human and bear population."
Today's announcement is the next step in
the province's Bear Wise program. The key elements of Bear Wise are
reporting, response, prevention, and education and awareness. People can
call 1-866-514-BEAR (2327) toll-free 24 hours a day, seven days a week
during the bear season with non-emergency bear problems.
"By strengthening the communities in
which we live, we are providing people with a quality of life that is
second to none," said Ramsay.
Fact sheet: Province Signs Protocol with
Police on Response to Human-Bear Conflicts
IN AN IMMEDIATE EMERGENCY: contact your local police force or dial 911
TO REPORT BEAR PROBLEMS: contact the Bear Reporting Line at
1-866-514-BEAR (2327) (TTY) 705 945-7641
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE BEAR MANAGEMENT
PROGRAM: contact your local MNR office
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June 14, 2004
WISE PROGRAM WILL MAKE COMMUNITIES SAFER
$900,000 for community-based bear
NORTH BAY — A new Bear Wise funding program to support community-based
bear prevention, awareness and public education programs will increase
public safety in bear country, Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay
"We will work with communities to
identify trouble spots for conflicts between humans and bears and
implement prevention measures to reduce those conflicts," said Ramsay.
"We are providing $900,000 to support initiatives that will help make
communities in bear country safer, such as bear-resistant garbage
containers or landfill fencing."
Communities that undergo an approved bear
hazard assessment and develop an action plan are eligible to receive
funds through the Bear Wise program. The bear hazard assessment involves
the community and the local Ministry of Natural Resources office working
together to identify areas at high risk for human-bear conflicts and
then developing a plan to prevent problems. Interested communities must
apply by July 16, 2004, for funding for this year.
"I'm very pleased the ministry is
providing funding for community-based prevention efforts," said North
Bay Mayor Victor Fedeli, as he accepted a funding application from the
minister. "This will help communities like ours manage, or better yet,
prevent bear problems, and that's good for all of us living here."
The minister also announced that the
North Bay Police Service is about to become the second force to sign an
agreement with the ministry under the Bear Wise program. North Bay
police will respond to emergency bear calls and will call the Ministry
of Natural Resources for assistance if necessary. The ministry will
respond to non-emergency bear calls.
The Bear Wise program is based on four
cornerstones - reporting, response, prevention, and education and
People who have bear problems or want
more information on bears, can call the Bear Wise phone line
1-866-514-2327 toll-free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week during bear
season. They can also visit the Bear Wise website at bears.mnr.gov.on.ca
for education and awareness information.
For emergency bear situations, the public is asked to call 911 or local
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- Bear Biology”
Up close and personal with Ontario's black bears.
Bear biologists and wildlife experts share some fascinating facts.
“Sharing the great outdoors”
We humans share the province of Ontario with more than 75,000 black
bears. Most live in the geographic expanse stretching from Ottawa in the
southeast through to Kenora in the northwest. The central portion of
this vast area, where the highest density of black bears is found, is
also Ontario's "cottage country." So, are people sharing the great
outdoors with the bears? Or are the bears sharing their home with
people. According to leading wildlife specialists with the Ontario
Ministry of Natural Resources, there's plenty of room for all of us.
"With a little effort on the part of humans, both species can `live and
let live,'" says Mike Hall, District Biologist with MNR in Sudbury.
Understanding black bears starts with
studying their life cycles, food sources and reproduction patterns, and
determining the environmental factors that motivate them to roam -
sometimes hundreds of kilometers - in search for food. No one works
harder to find these answers than the MNR specialists who get up close
and personal with these fascinating and intelligent animals.
Dr. Martyn Obbard is a research scientist
with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and is recognized as an
expert on black bears. Dr. Obbard and his fellow biologists have amassed
a wealth of information about black bears. Their combined knowledge is
being used to clear up misconceptions and promote collaboration between
residents and communities. As leading bear experts, they hope that
greater awareness will lead to increased respect for bears and their
value in our ecosystem, and motivate us to take the steps necessary to
reduce human-bear conflicts. "Treating wildlife with respect and doing
our part to reduce conflicts is all part of being ecologically
responsible," says Dr. Obbard.
“A bit of bear biology”
Many people don't realize just how big
black bears are. A mature adult male can measure up to 190 cm (6 ft) in
length, and weigh anywhere from 120 to 300 kg (250 to 650 lbs). Females
can weigh up to 180 kg (400 lbs).
While we tend to think of bears as
herbivores, eating berries, nuts, roots, shoots and leaves, black bears
are actually omnivores that will eat just about anything, including
carrion and smaller animals. Black bears are opportunistic, which means
they will do what they have to and go where they must, to find food. In
what biologists call "a good food year," when generous rainfall and cool
weather lead to lush berry crops, bears live on what nature provides. In
early spring, on emerging from hibernation, they eat willow catkins,
grasses, dandelions and aspen leaves. When they can, they augment this
diet with protein sources such as fish, winter-killed animals and
sometimes newborn fawns or moose calves. In summer, they eat
raspberries, blueberries, chokecherries and various currants and tree
berries as they become available, looking to ant colonies and bee and
wasp nests for sources of protein. In fall, they favour hazelnuts,
mountain ash berries, acorns and beechnuts. Bears will feed for 20 hours
a day, consuming enormous quantities of food, driven by a biological
imperative to put on as much weight as possible in preparation for the
coming winter hibernation.
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Bear Wise -
Farmer's role in keeping bears at bay
Can farmers and bears coexist in peace?
Yes - with planning and effort.
Farmland and bear country: frequently one and the same.
Ontario's Ministry of Agriculture and
Food census shows that in the year 2000 there were almost 60,000 working
farms in Ontario, with some 85,000 Ontario residents earning their
living by farming. To say that farming is a vital contributor to
Ontario's economy would be a huge understatement. Ontario farms supply a
vast market for beef and dairy products, hogs, chickens, fruits,
vegetables and grains. A farmer's life, while challenging at the best of
times, can be made especially difficult when the farm is situated in
"bear country." Thousands of Ontario farms are located in regions of
central, northern and northwestern Ontario where the forests support
populations of black bears. These forests and wooded areas often border,
and sometimes surround, farmland. The farms are part of bear country,
and the bears are part of farm country. This is why farmer-bear
conflicts can frequently occur.
Fattening up: a bear's prime directive
Bears' natural life cycle is to start
looking for food as soon as they emerge from hibernation in the spring
and eat as much as possible during summer and into early fall. Bears
will forage and eat for 20 hours a day, consuming enormous quantities of
food, some managing to double their body weight by the end of the
season. This is especially important for females, who need that stored
reserve of energy to produce and feed cubs throughout a long winter in
In what bear biologists call "a good food
year," black bears live on the foods they find naturally in their forest
environment - young green shoots and aspen leaves in the spring,
plentiful berry crops in summer and a variety of nuts in the fall. But
in years of drought, when berry crops dry up, or when a late spring
frost has killed the fledgling berry flowers, the bears have to roam
farther for food, using their highly developed sense of smell as a sort
of homing device. The aroma of corn or ripening grain in a farmer's
field, fallen fruit in an orchard or vegetables in a garden - or the
scent of livestock, animal food or even a bird feeder, can bring them to
the property looking for a meal. Beehives are a particular attraction,
and being omnivores, bears have been known to take newborn calves. And
once they get a taste of what's available on a farm, they will remember,
For the farmer, this can mean the loss of
expensive livestock, grain crops, produce and valuable feed. For the
bear, it can mean the loss of life. Because in defense of property and
income, the farmer may see no alternative but to shoot the offending
Damage control: preventing problems
before they start
The Ontario Government, through the
Ministry of Natural Resources, has mounted a program called Bear Wise,
intended to provide all Ontario residents, including farmers, with
information about black bears and the steps we can all take to reduce
the number of human-bear encounters. Some of the steps are simple:
Picking ripe fruit off trees and vegetables from the ground, for
example, not leaving pet food or livestock supplements outdoors and
waiting until winter to put up bird feeders. But for farmers in
particular, some steps involve more planning and effort.
"There are things farmers can do to
protect their property," says Bill Darby, who works for Ontario's
Ministry of Natural Resources, and is a farmer himself. As District
Manager in Fort Frances and a former biologist, Darby farms and works in
a part of the province where he says, "Interface between bears and
farmers is at or near the maximum you would see anywhere."
One of the steps Darby suggests is that
if at all possible, grain or cornfields should be planted as far away
from the edge of the forest as possible. "Bears like to follow the
forest edge," he says. "So any crop that's adjacent to the forest is
vulnerable, because the bears will venture out, knowing there's a forest
right behind them to retreat to." Leaving a swath of open land or
pasture between the crop and the forest edge will deter bears foraging
because bears are more likely to stay in the cover of the woods and
follow the edge looking for something closer.
If farmers don't have that flexibility,
Darby's other suggestion is electric fencing. It has been shown that
electric fencing placed between the crop and the adjacent woods can be
effective at deterring bears, especially if a scent lure is placed at
intervals on the wire. Electric fencing is also wise protection for
beehives and orchards. Other MNR biologists concur, stating that the
investment in electric fencing is definitely worthwhile when measured
against the longer-term costs of losing calves, crops or produce to a
foraging bear. Farmers who would like more information on electric
fencing are encouraged to contact their local MNR office, where details
are available on fencing type, lengths and installation procedures.
Darby, and other senior MNR biologists agree that farmer-bear
coexistence is all about preventing damage well before it occurs. It's
also about being aware of what is and isn't a "bear problem." For
example, a bear sauntering through the back of a farmer's property isn't
a problem. It's only when that bear is attracted by something on the
farm it thinks it can eat, and is rewarded with a full belly, that it
becomes a problem. Through the steps the ministry suggests in its Bear
Wise information program, perhaps more bears can be kept away…and kept
Farmers or other residents who want more
information or need help managing a bear conflict can call
1-866-514-BEAR, visit a special website,
, or contact their local MNR district office.
"We have the choice," says Darby. "As
farmers, we can view bears as `varmints' or as a precious tourism
resource. Our behaviour determines what value we place on bears. It
seems wiser, for farmers, and for society in general, to achieve the
most out of all of our natural resources. With a little planning and
effort, we can improve the chances that bears and humans can coexist."
Bears' entire lives are spent in a repeated cycle: Eat … fatten
up…hibernate…emerge. Both sexes know they need to gain as much weight as
possible during the period from mid-April to late fall. But for the
female, weight gain is especially important, or she won't reproduce. The
female may mate successfully, but due to some amazing evolutionary
foresight, her fertilized eggs won't implant to form cubs until her body
reaches a certain weight - at least 70 kg.
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