Tourist operators to feel the crunch over axed bear hunt

Area tourist operators say they will feel the financial crunch through lost revenue with the province’s decision to cancel the spring bear hunt starting this year.
Don Hyatt, owner/operator of Hyatt’s Manion Lake Camp northeast of Mine Centre, predicted he will lose $35,000-$40,000 in gross revenue with the cancelled hunt.
Other operators have estimated their losses will be in the neighborhood of $100,000-$150,000.
Hyatt said he’s already been forced to give back deposits, and just recently had to turn down a group of 10 hunters at a price tag of $12,000–money that simply won’t be replaced.
The spring bear hunt has been estimated to bring in about $17 million in direct spending by hunters in Ontario, and an additional $23 million in economic activity.
Hyatt said the lack of a consultation period, warning outfitters of the proposed changes, was his biggest concern, arguing there was just too little time before the spring hunt.
“If they had given us some time, like say in three years from now, [then] frankly it wouldn’t have been as bad,” he said yesterday afternoon.
Dale LaBelle, who owns Birch Point Camp on Northwest Bay, said he already had booked “10 or 11” hunters–the most he’s ever had–and estimated lost revenue will cost him $25,000-$30,000.
That will cause him to hire his “summer” worker later in the year, he noted.
Hyatt said he usually hires two extra staff during the spring bear hunt. But that won’t happen now even though there has been rumours the Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters (NOTO) may be able to take legal action against the provincial government.
“Even if we get re-instated, those guys [I lost] will book into Manitoba or Quebec where they still have the hunt and that’ll be the worst part,” he charged.
NOTO is arguing the Ministry of Natural Resources must post a notice of intention under the Environmental Bill of Rights before the cancelling of the spring bear hunt would become law.
It said they should be allowed the required 30 days to respond with public comment.
“They had no scientific or biological data that supports [cubs are being orphaned] so we’re asking as many people as possible to respond,” NOTO president Hugh Carlson charged while at a sports show in Chicago yesterday afternoon.
“[But] the damage has been done. Deposits have been sent back, brochures have been printed and paid for, and [outfitters] have paid money to attend shows,” he added.
Carlson said NOTO reps met with Natural Resources minister John Snobelen last Thursday to discuss the matter of compensation but declined to comment further because he was not at that meeting.
Snobelen announced the cancellation of the spring bear hunt Jan. 15 because the province said it would not “tolerate cubs being orphaned by hunters mistakenly shooting mother bears in the spring.”
It was a move applauded by several environmental groups.
But Carlson warned the province is sending an “anti-sportsmen” message to American hunters and fishermen, which may see many of them boycott Canada altogether.