Nuisance Bear Hunt

With much controversy, Canada’s Liberal government reinstated the Spring Bear Hunt this year for the first time since 1999.  It will run as part of a 2-year pilot project with the hunt (already begun) on May 1 and run for six weeks until June 15 and take place in various regions of Northern Ontario.

There are several problems with this, not the least of which is the risk of mother bears being killed and their young cubs starving to death.  While the hunt only allows the killing of male bears and not females, a hunter would have to be pretty close to the bear to determine the sex before pulling the trigger.  This is how “bear-baiting” is rationalized: by putting out food to entice the bear, the hunters are supposed to be able to get close enough to determine the gender before killing him/her. Um, sure.

The part that bothers me the most is that the hunt is not being reinstated due to overpopulation.  Even if that were the case, there are ways to deter bears without killing them. Trees can be sprayed with repellent and areas can be restricted to humans so they don’t provide an added food supply to the bears.  But no. The hunt has been reinstated due to “nuisance” bears and an increase in “human-bear conflicts” according to the Premier of Ontario’s office. And therein lies the truth of the real “conflict”.

To me, it’s the classic attitude of human entitlement that we should have access to all nature and the freedom to live within it as we choose.  If something threatens the comfort and lifestyle we are accustomed to, then the expectation is that our surroundings should change, not us. If you live next door to a fire hall, is it reasonable to be surprised when you hear sirens?  If you live behind a school, does it make sense to complain about the sound of kids playing?  If you live above a diner, should you be shocked when your apartment smells like a deep fryer?  If you move to the country for the quiet, do you have a right to complain about the noise of wildlife?

Based on how our leaders have responded to handling the bears who are currently emerging from hibernation, the answer would appear to reinforce a “yes” to these “nuisance” scenarios. Obviously I disagree. Many people who live up North educate themselves on how to co-exist with wild bears without the need to hunt and kill them. But there are those, including some in our government, who feel the bears are the ones who should be removed instead of us.

The government is emphasising that they’re supporting the bear hunt in the interest of “public safety”.  It’s a lazy response; there are experts and conservationists who could easily assist with deterring the bears without threatening their lives.  But that would take more time and effort and a gun is quicker and requires no sacrifice on our part. After all, the bears are a threat to US not the other way around even though WE are the ones on their turf. And isn’t human safety and comfort of paramount importance above all else, even other living beings?

It speaks to a purveying attitude humans have towards wild animals: they can be here as long as they don’t threaten our way of life or interfere with our desires.  If they do, we as self-appointed masters at the top of the food chain have every right to protect ourselves from the “nuisance” of having to co-exist with something we don’t understand.  It reinforces the greater message towards non-human animals that ultimately we deserve to be here and they don’t; that animals are here for us, not with us.

This is not progress.


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