Nova Scotia scraps spring bear hunt idea, public ‘very divided’ on issue

Click to play video: 'Advocates speak out against potential Nova Scotia spring bear hunt'
Advocates speak out against potential Nova Scotia spring bear hunt
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The Nova Scotia government has decided not to hold a spring bear hunt after it says public consultation showed Nova Scotians are “very divided” on the issue.

The province proposed the spring pilot project in January and launched an online survey to gather feedback. Currently, bear hunting is only allowed in the fall.

That online survey garnered more than 17,000 responses, and 134 emails and letters that were sent to the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (DNR).

According to the province, 51 per cent of survey respondents were opposed to a spring bear hunt, 47 per cent were supportive and two per cent were neutral.

“The Department is committed to maintaining a stable and healthy bear population living in their natural habitat without negatively affecting the ecosystem or creating safety problems in communities,” the province wrote in a Wednesday release.

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Hope Swinimer, founder of the Hope for Wildlife animal rehabilitation centre, says her organization was among those that submitted a letter to the province to voice opposition to the idea.

She says she’s happy to hear the province won’t go ahead with the plan.

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“It appears that public opinion won out in this case, and hopefully going forward too, it will be based on what the public thinks should happen,” Swinimer said.

She also hopes that “all the research that was dug out” during this debate has led to a better understanding of black bears and the impact of hunting.

“Black bear hunting can actually cause more bears to wander into human habitat because of the method that they use for baiting,” she said.

“So I think it is important to keep that education component out there, to make people realize the effort that they need to make to keep bears from wandering into their properties.”

Pilot project would have lasted 5 weeks

The province first pitched the idea of a spring bear hunt in January and said it would be a five-week season. The idea was to re-evaluate the project to see if there should be a spring hunt every year.

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At the time, Tory Rushton, minister of natural resources and renewables, said Nova Scotia was the only province with a black bear population that did not have a spring bear hunt.

The pilot project would have only been open to Nova Scotia residents, and only male bears and females with no cubs could be hunted.

However, Swinimer told Global News at the time that she was concerned about the impact these rules would have on the bear population and the potential that cubs could become orphaned since it’s difficult to differentiate between male and female black bears.

She added that if the province truly wanted a spring hunt, there should also be movement toward a rehabilitation program. Right now, Nova Scotia does not have a rescue and rehabilitation process for black bears.

Swinimer says Hope for Wildlife is “set up and ready to go” to create such a rehabilitation program.

“(DNR has) left the door open and there is some discussion now. So that’s making me rather hopeful that perhaps change will come to Nova Scotia in this way,” she said.

“My fingers are crossed that soon there will be black bear rehab in Nova Scotia. But of course, that will be decided by DNR.”

The annual fall bear season, which is not impacted by this decision, limits hunting to one bear. Licences are only sold at Natural Resources and Renewables offices.

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The province says it’s also continuing its efforts to improve bear management by looking at regulations around hunting and “inappropriate feeding of wildlife.”

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