Bear hunt gets thumbs up

Joey Payeur

The Ontario government is getting no argument from local tourist operators when it comes to its recent five-year extension of the spring bear hunt.
“It’s great news,” said Tom Pearson, who owns Camp Narrows Lodge on the north arm of Rainy Lake.
“It was ridiculous that they cancelled it in the first place,” he added.
“I lost a lot of bear hunters when it happened, about 10 per year at $1,500 each,” Pearson noted.
“It was a big hit when it happened.”
The two-year pilot project to bring back the spring bear hunt after it was cancelled by the former Conservative government under Mike Harris back in 1999 has been the subject of controversy.
Camp owners and others say the hunt, which is restricted to male bears only, will help control the problem of “nuisance bears.”
But environmentalists have charged that mother bears will become victims of the hunt, as well, leaving their orphaned nursing cubs to slowly starve to death.
Lake Despair Lodge owner Bill Godin said there has been an overabundance of bears around his tourist camp.
“In the springtime and the fall when they’re hungry, they definitely come around,” he noted.
“You have to try and keep the garbage bins cleaned out all the time because once they get food, they don’t want to leave.”
Pearson said limiting the bear population also will have a much-needed positive effect on another species.
“This is going to help the moose because we’ll be bear-baiting when the calves are being born in the spring,” he explained.
“The bears will go for the bait rather than following the moose around, waiting for the calves to drop so they can eat those,” he noted.
“It’s not going to save all the calves but it’s going to save a lot of them.”
Scott Hamilton, owner and operator of Jackfish Hammy’s Guide Service that works in conjunction with Camp Narrows Lodge, also sees the continuation of the spring bear hunt as a positive.
But he warned the effects likely won’t be seen overnight.
“Tourists are creatures of habit and like to come to the same places again and again,” Hamilton noted.
“When you shut [the bear hunt] down and lose all the old spring bear hunters you had, it’s hard to get them back,” he reasoned.
“You’re going to have to rebuild your clientele all over again.”
As well, Hamilton said the timing of the recent announcement to extend the spring bear hunt also will dent any significant immediate impact.
“It’s not cheap to go bear hunting and most of these hunters are booking a year in advance,” he explained.
“It’s spring now and [the government] just made it official a couple of weeks ago that they were going to extend it, so nobody’s booked to come here this year,” Hamilton said.
“Don’t expect a miracle turnaround at least for a year or two,” he stressed.