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Overdue or overkill? N.S. hunters weigh in on spring bear hunting

 The Nova Scotia government has proposed a spring bear hunt pilot, but like the existing fall season, only male bears and females with no cubs could be killed.  (Sali Cunningham - image credit)
The Nova Scotia government has proposed a spring bear hunt pilot, but like the existing fall season, only male bears and females with no cubs could be killed. (Sali Cunningham - image credit)

A spring bear hunt could be coming to Nova Scotia, but not everyone is sold on the plan that would bring the province in line with the rest of the country.

Nova Scotia residents can hunt black bears, the only species of bear in the province, in the fall.

However, the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables is proposing a five-week spring hunt pilot project to start May 20 and run until June 22 — excluding Sundays. Even with the expansion, hunters would still be limited to one bear per year. As with the existing fall season, only male bears and females without cubs could be killed.

"Being the last Canadian province not to have it, we are definitely overdue," said Sali Cunningham, president of the Nova Scotia chapter for Safari Club International, a hunting rights and wildlife conservation group.

She said the spring season could provide fresh wild meat outside of fall — when most big game seasons are scheduled.

The bear population in Nova Scotia is stable or increasing, according to data the province collects from hunters and incidents.

"We're most interested in understanding what the success rate is, that will help us estimate population size which in turn will help us estimate what kind of pressure the population can sustain," said Andrew Boyne with the Department of Renewable and Resources.

Not all hunters agree 

"Although there may be a healthy bear population in this province, and I think there probably is, they face a lot of problems from forest loss," said Bob Bancroft, the president of Nature Nova Scotia, who also hunts game including moose and deer.

"Just because other people are doing it doesn't justify that we should be doing it here."

Bancroft said the fall hunt gives the species the spring and summer to recover from hibernation as well as raise cubs born over the winter.

"They've got enough on the go being in poor shape and having youngsters at that time of year," Bancroft said.

Cunningham said, on the contrary, bait stations used to attract bears during hunting season could be a valuable food source as the animals come out of hibernation.

"It actually increases their opportunity of fattening up and eating because we're not taking every single animal that shows up to the site," she said.

Sali Cunningham, president of the Nova Scotia chapter for Safari Club International, says a spring season is something she and other bear hunters have asked for.
Sali Cunningham, president of the Nova Scotia chapter for Safari Club International, says a spring season is something she and other bear hunters have asked for.

Sali Cunningham, president of the Nova Scotia chapter for Safari Club International, says a spring season is something she and other bear hunters have asked for. (Sali Cunningham)

Regardless of the time of year, Cunningham said hunters have legal and ethical responsibilities when in woods. She said that applies to bear conversation but also to the safety of other people enjoying the outdoors.

"We aren't Elmer Fudd running around with guns shooting anything that we see," said Cunningham. "If we can't identify what it is we are targeting, you don't shoot."

The public can have a say about the proposed spring hunt pilot online until Feb. 24.

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