Nuisance bears

Local MPP Howard Hampton is urging the Ministry Of Natural Resources to take back the responsibility of responding to complaints about nuisance bears in Northern Ontario.
In an Aug. 24 open letter to Minister John Snobelen, Hampton pointed to the province’s downloading of this responsibility to the municipalities for the continued menace bears pose in some communities.
“I write to you on the serious matter of nuisance bears and how your government’s decision to abandon your responsibility for trapping and relocating bears has put lives at risk across Northern Ontario,” Hampton’s letter began.
“I strongly urge you to scrap your decision to download bear management . . . and take back that responsibility so that the nuisance bear problem can be solved,” Hampton continued.
The letter followed weeks of complaints about bear sightings close to residential areas across Northwestern Ontario including Fort Frances, Kenora, and Thunder Bay.
A poor berry crop, resulting in a shortage of food supply for the bears, is being blamed for what town officials here say is the worst nuisance bear problem the area has seen since 1995.
The MNR officially stopped responding to reports of problem bears beginning in 1996, citing budget cuts. The responsibility and cost of dealing with the trapping and relocation of bears was gradually transferred to the hands of organized municipalities.
While some towns arranged to hire live-trap services, others, such as Thunder Bay, hired individual contractors who lived in rural areas, often resulting in an increased response time. In many cases, the problem was left in the hands of the OPP.
In Fort Frances, town personnel have responded to more than 50 complaints about bears in the last two weeks alone. Bears have been spotted close to residential areas in many parts of town including, on more than one occasion, a sow and her cubs seen wandering in the town’s central core.
Bears that are considered dangerous are caught in live traps and relocated by trained personnel in the town’s by-law enforcement department.
“We’ve relocated seven bears already,” said Arlene Byrnes, by-law officer. “This is a very high year.”
Bill Moody, information management supervisor at the MNR office here noted that the transition of responsibility from the provincial to municipal level has been relatively smooth here.
“We have been fortunate because we have two partners who took (the responsibility) over willingly,” he said. “We have the Town of Fort Frances who have an agreement with us, and we have Second Chance Wildlife Control (who look after this area as well as Atikokan and Rainy River).”
Moody added that in some districts, MNR conservation officers will still look after the problem if no other body exists to trap and relocate bears.