Ont. crop growers seek resumed bear hunt

Mindful of crop damage, Ontario’s general farm organization is urging the provincial government to reinstate a spring bear hunt in the province.

The call from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture came as media in Ontario reported earlier this week that the provincial natural resources ministry (MNR) has halted its program to trap and relocate "problem bears."

"It’s clear that the Bear Wise program was ineffective at managing the problem," OFA president Mark Wales said in a release.

"The rising bear population is causing increasing damage to crops and putting human safety at risk. It’s time to bring back the spring bear hunt to responsibly and effectively get the bear population under control."

Ontario’s annual spring bear hunt was "cancelled in 1999 for reasons the MNR never clearly stated," the OFA said, and "hungry bears" now cause millions of dollars in losses for northern Ontario communities that had benefited from the hunt.

The hunt "takes care of a real need to prevent damage, danger, and expense to rural communities and Ontario farm families," said Wales, a vegetable producer at Aylmer, Ont.

The Toronto Star on Wednesday quoted a May 3 letter from MNR acting assistant deputy minister Carrie Hayward to the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, saying the trap-and-relocate option "has been the least effective tool in managing the bear problem, with research showing that many relocated bears simply return to the area from where they were removed."

Star reporter Curtis Rush noted in the same article that provincial "bear technicians" would no longer be dispatched after dark to deal with nuisance bears.

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