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20 June 2024


Many of our outfitters are asking how the MLOA is facing the challenges currently before us. To say it has been easy would be inaccurate, but needed, yes.

President Melanie MacCarthy and I set out a plan of action to defend our businesses and livelihoods from inaccurate information and ignorance. While Melanie was in Ottawa connecting with like minded people from across North America there was an opinion piece published in the Winnipeg Free Press asking for a ban of the spring bear hunt. I have included the story below.

Manitoba spring bear hunt is unfair and unnecessary

By: Jessica Scott-Reid
Posted: 2:01 AM CDT Wednesday, Jun. 12, 2024


When we think of trophy hunting, we may imagine the wealthy Americans who pay thousands of dollars to travel to faraway lands, to hunt down baited elephants or canned lions, often under the guise of conservation or feeding the poor. While a small percentage of the population may applaud the photos of these lifeless animals propped up as prizes, the rest of us will snarl and shake our heads at the cruel and callous display. “At least that would never happen here,” we may think. “Trophy hunting is an over-there problem.”

Except it’s not.

Right here in Manitoba, we too host tourists who are eager to hunt down and claim our animals: our black bears, just as they are emerging from their winter hibernation, hungry and ready to take the bait. Yes, the spring bear hunt is now well underway in our province. And animal advocates are calling for the unfair and unnecessary practice to end.

There are numerous outfitter companies that host hunts in regions across Manitoba. One company, near Riding Mountain National Park, charges US$3,500 for six days of hunting. It claims on its site that, “During your bear hunt you will be placed over an active bear bait site (and) with a little patience and some determination you will be able to harvest a trophy of a lifetime.”

Another company claims that “black bear hunting in the Northern Interlake Region has been considered as one of the top destinations in the world.” It even has a taxidermist on hand to help turn that kill into a memorable trophy — rugs and head mounts are most common, they write.

But local animal advocates say that the killing of black bears for fun in Manitoba is wrong and must end. The Winnipeg Humane Society states in an online position statement that the group “opposes the spring bear hunt and calls for the Government of Manitoba to end this practice.”

In the Manitoba government’s 2024 spring hunting guide, Jamie Moses, minister of economic development, investment, trade and natural resources, thanks hunters for the “important role” they play “in the stewardship and long-term sustainability of our valued natural resources.” Surely he’s not talking about the bears.

According to the guide, bait for black bears can be placed just over 200 metres from a road or dwelling, and just over 500 metres from a cottage subdivision or a Crown land picnic site or campground. And this can be done as of April 8, two weeks before the hunt begins on April 22, which is around the very time black bears typically emerge from their dens in need of food. So, they take the bait, becoming sitting ducks for eager trophy hunters.

For those bears not killed by crossbow, rifle, or shotgun, and who have become accustomed to seeking food at those bait stations, they then need only to travel a few hundred metres to possible nearby homes or cabins in search of their next meal. And we all know what then happens to those “nuisance” bears.

Hunting regulations state further that it is illegal to kill bear cubs, or mother bears with cubs. However, according to a 2024 study in the journal Ursus, published by the International Association for Bear Research, “it can be difficult for hunters to determine the reproductive status of a female, particularly if her cubs are not present.” Also, the authors note, there may be “a reluctance to report the death of a lactating female because of potential legal and/or regulatory implications. Thus, it is possible that spring bear hunting produces more orphaned cubs than are reported because cubs may die before being found as orphans.”

“Because mother bears often leave their cubs in a nearby tree or other location as they forage, the spring bear hunt results in mothers being recklessly killed,” says Manitoba lawyer Kaitlyn Mitchell, with national organization Animal Justice, “leaving their orphaned cubs to suffer and even die.”

Leslie Fox with Canadian wildlife advocacy organization, The Fur Bearers, also notes that orphaned cubs resulting from the hunt “places an unnecessary stress and financial burden on publicly funded rehabilitation centres to capture, transport and care for these animals.”

Manitoba Black Bear Rescue has rescued as many 32 orphaned bear cubs in a year, owner Judy Stearns recently told CTV News.

There is also “no evidence that spring bear hunting reduces human-bear conflict or improves human safety,” adds Mitchell. Rather than controlling bear populations by shooting them, she adds, “Manitoba should focus on promoting safe and respectful co-existence with these majestic animals.”

That certainly sounds like a better strategy toward the “long-term sustainability of our valued natural resources,” over trophy hunting them.

Jessica Scott-Reid is a Winnipeg-based journalist and animal advocate. She also sits on the board of directors at The Winnipeg Humane Society.

As soon as Melanie read the article she sat down and worked on a reply that was published in the June 20th Winnipeg Free Press. We wanted to share it will all our members.

Manitoba’s Spring Bear Hunt More Critical for Bear Management Than Ever

In a recent edition of the Winnipeg Free Press, Jessica Scott-Reid takes aim at Manitoba’s spring bear hunt but unfortunately, she badly missed the mark.

I am an outfitter, a hunter, an angler and a former agricultural producer with remaining ties to the industry. I live in bear country, with the bears. I grew up with bears and so I have a deep appreciation for them. I also hunt them, as do our clients because it is our collective lifestyle choice to do so. Yes, we could get our meat from the grocery store like others, but we choose not to.

Bears provide some of the most nutritious and flavorful meat and offer high quality fat that is rendered down for various uses including cooking, baking, leather treatment, as a moisturizer and for its healing qualities. In a recent virtual survey, my fellow outfitter colleagues reported that 98% of their hunters are consuming both the meat and fat and the remainder is donated to local families who don’t have the access or ability to hunt themselves.

Scott-Reid and her animal rights activist colleagues suggest issues with the bear hunt, including that the spring hunt increases nuisance bear incidents by attracting bears to cabins and people. This is patently false. In fact, I would argue the exact opposite is true. Outfitters avoid cottage areas and stay away from areas that are heavily used by people in general as it is counterproductive to the hunt. Moreover, our experience has shown that bear hunting reduces nuisance bear problems, by keeping bear populations under control.

One wouldn’t think COVID could have had a direct impact on bears, yet it did. With the inability of American hunters to travel North during COVID, there was little to no harvest of bears. Because sows often have up to 3 cubs, the bear population saw an explosive rise in our area. We saw increased human-bear interactions with hikers and bikers and increased complaints from rural communities. We heard more than the usual concerns from many farmers and cottage owners regarding damage to property and predation on livestock.

In 1999, under pressure from animal rights advocates, Ontario cancelled its spring bear hunt. But in 2021 it brought the spring hunt back, with facts and science prevailing over emotion. Local Ontario communities reported increased negative bear interactions after the cancellation of the hunt and were relieved when the hunt was reinstated. Bear hunting as a personal choice was valued, along with the critical economic impact of the hunt.

Unmanaged bear populations can have other consequences. Deep concerns have been raised by hunters and conservationists about the declining health of the moose population in Manitoba. Bears are significant predators of moose calves. It doesn’t make bears bad, it’s just what they do. But people living on the land know that balance in all things is important, and when bear populations get high, as they are now, it causes issues such as contributing to moose declines, causing crop damage and inflicting predation on livestock, especially calves.  

Scott-Reid seems to suggest that cubs being sent to the Manitoba Black Bear Rescue facility were orphaned because of the spring bear hunt. Knowing many people who work in conservation, wildlife management and the Conservation Officer Service, we believe that cubs are orphaned by sows being shot in defence of property and other ways such as falling victim to car collisions, NOT the spring bear hunt. Hunters have no interest in harming bear cubs, or any other young wildlife. Identifying a sow with cubs in the spring is generally quite easy as they will be right at foot or within a close visible distance.

Hunters, anglers, trappers and outfitters have a strong interest in conservation. Without a doubt, these folks spend the largest amount of time and money ensuring the resources are sustainable. After all, without the resources, their businesses would fail, and their way of life would not exist. Outfitters often get into the business because of their passion to be in the wilderness, and in many cases carry on a legacy passed on for many generations. They now contribute to the economy, create local jobs, carry on family businesses, and do something they love, while contributing to the sustainable management of our resources.  

So, for many reasons, there has never been a worse time to mislead Manitobans on bear facts.  

Melanie MacCarthy
Manitoba Lodges and Outfitters

The MLOA also sent a letter to Minister Moses outlining our concerns with possibility of even considering the suspension of a spring bear hunt.

Then we found a post on Facebook that should scare all of us who love to hunt and fish.  See below. 

Grand Chief Garrison Settee and Misipawastik Cree Nation Chief Heidi Cook met with Premier Wab Kiniew, Minister Jamie Moses, Minister Ian Bushie and Minister Matt Wiebe on Monday.

On the agenda were many issues, one of the biggest, was the constitutional obligation of the Right of Top Priority to hunt, fish, trap and gather for food, social and ceremonial purposes. Manitoba is not taking the food needs of First Nations into account before Manitoba issues licences to Manitoba residents, Canadian residents, and non-Canadian resident hunters. By continuing to issue licences to Manitoba resident hunters while at the same time Manitoba is imposing severe restrictions on the First Nation right to hunt for food.

The government is also not taking meaningful steps to limit development-related impacts on wildlife habitats and populations, or to rehabilitate adversely impacted lands and waters or to restore and wildlife and fish populations that are subject to harvest restrictions.

We demand the Manitoba government repeal or amend the provisions of Manitoba regulations which are unconstitutional, immediately terminate the draw for Manitoba resident hunter licences in the specific game hunting areas where First Nations traditionally hunt, and to cease enforcement of Manitoba regulations against First Nation hunters.

Another area of concern is to protect the Brandon Indian Residential School site containing the remains of children from eight MKO (and other) First Nations who died while being forced by Canada to attend the school. They maintained that control and custody of the remains and the site should be held by the custodial and culturally affiliated MKO (and other) First Nations.

MKO and Sioux Valley Dakota Nation (SVDN) are deeply concerned that Manitoba has not yet adopted and acted on the “first principles” called for by MKO and SVDN and consistent with TRC Call to Action 75, UNDRIP Articles 12 and 31 and The Path to Reconciliation Act.

By acting on these demands the government can show that it is living up to its commitment for the betterment of our nations as an act of reconciliation.

Upon reading this Melanie called the Ministers office expressing extreme concern with this post. We are still waiting for a response

Don Lamont 
Executive Director
Manitoba Lodges and Outfitters