Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.
A Thunder Bay-based conservation group is calling for a return of the spring bear hunt after a city man was attacked by a black bear in Sandbar Provincial Park on the weekend.
The Northwestern Ontario Sportsmen’s Alliance says that hunting bears in the spring would help the animals develop a greater fear of humans, and not consider them as food.
Executive director John Kaplanis said Wednesday that “NOSA is extremely worried that while the Ministry of Natural Resources is well aware of the increase in aggressive bear activity and predatory type bear attacks on humans, little is being done to regulate this sort of bear behaviour.
“The concern is that black bears are learning to regard humans as prey, much the same as other vulnerable prey sources such as moose calves,” he said.
Trevor Miller, 42, was scratched and bitten on the back in a bear attack Saturday that lasted more than two hours on a hiking trail east of the park’s campground. His sister’s miniature schnauzer was killed while protecting Miller from the bear.
“I owe my life to that little dog, Spyro. That poor little guy just walked up to the bear,” Miller said.
When the bear attacked the dog, it allowed Miller and a second dog enough time to escape to a nearby park ranger station.
Miller said the bear showed no fear and seemed intent on making him his next meal.
The 260-pound bear was captured and destroyed by park officials.
Kaplanis said NOSA has had enough of people being injured by bears in the Northwest.
“NOSA is regarding this latest bear attack as the final straw, and we’ll expect full accountability from the Natural Resources minister and from local MPPs who are well-aware of the bear situation here in the Northwest.
“This last attack could easily have been a young child playing at a campsite at a provincial park, and in such a case a child would not have the ability to fight off an adult black bear intent on making a predatory attack,” he said.
Kaplanis said the answer to teaching bears to leave humans alone is simple: “You hunt them instead of allowing them to hunt you.
“The ministry’s standard message of reducing food availability, garbage, bird feeders . . . only goes so far, at which point bear population numbers and their natural instincts as a predator take over,” he said.
“Bears become most dangerous when they no longer fear humans as predators that are above them on the food chain.
“Keep in mind that while we’re seeing an increase of reported bear attacks in recent years, there are also numerous close encounters and near misses with bears that go unreported.”
Despite a longer fall bear hunting season, Kaplanis said the bear population continues to grow in the region. Black bear hunting season in most wildlife management units in Northwestern Ontario begins next Thursday.