Nova Scotia’s Spring Bear Hunt Proposal Deadline for Comments is February 24th!

The full moon occurs this month on Saturday February 24th, the same day as the Nova Scotia Government’s deadline for public comment on its asinine proposed spring bear hunt in response to mounting pressure from the vocal few of the population. Me being me, I see a connection that cannot be passed off as coincidence. In the traditions of various Indigenous peoples including the Anishinaabe peoples in Ontario where I now reside, February is known as Makwa Giizis or Bear Moon.

This moon/month represents the time of year where pregnant female black bears give birth to their liter of 1-3 tiny baby bear cubs inside their hibernation dens beneath the blanket of snow and frozen ground. The life history of black bears is truly remarkable. They feel kin to me as they do to many people. There is a power and way about them that transcends their physical, biological awesomeness into something that can only be described as spiritual.

Long ago I had the fortune of assisting Ontario’s foremost bear biologist Dr, Marty Obbard and his research team In Algonquin Provincial Park over a few winters studying radio-collared female black bears at their den sites with their liters of cubs during hibernation. Keeping these tiny bawling balls of fur and claws warm inside our winter jackets was an experience I shall never forget. Spending time learning about these incredible mother bears and their babies in their winter world increased the deep respect I already held these incredible animals.

Bears emerge from their dens in spring typically from the end of March to the end of April depending on environmental cues. Females with cubs usually emerge the latest, sometimes as late as early May. The proposed spring bear hunt would last 5 weeks between May and June. The hunt would be another major additional threat to their survival that black bears must contend with and during a time when they are in their absolute worst conditions.

Both male and female bears are starving in the spring. They have lost 10-30% of their weight, having burned so much fat for fuel during the winter months (pregnant/nursing females lost the most weight). Food sources are slim pickings in the spring and bear continue to starve well into summer. Bear cubs are highly mobile as soon as they exit the den and can follow their mothers through the forest as she explores the world around her for the first signs of food.

After nursing her cubs at the base of select “nurse trees”, she leaves her cubs at these “nurse trees” where they are free to climb and lounge in its branches safe from predators. Imagine the first good whiff of food wafting through the forest hitting that powerful sense of smell that the bear is famous for. The starving mother bear leaves her cubs in the safety if the nurse tree and moves toward the source of the smell, just like any other starving bear around. But the source of this attractive smell is a mix blessing for a bear. It’s a bear hunter’s bait station. Food of all sorts is piled in barrels, on platforms and other structures or heaped on the ground.

Bait stations may provide a valuable source of food to bears who do not get shot but help them survive is not the intention of a spring hunt (or fall hunt for that matter). The Intention is to lure the bear into close range, and keep the bear occupied with the food long enough to be able to assess the bear. It may be possible to identify the sex, and in rare cases be able to correctly identify a female who is nursing cubs even without the cubs being present (remember the cubs are often stashed away as the female goes looking for food). Hunters are not permitted to hunt females with cubs, or lone females in visible nursing condition in fall hunt and it will also be illegal in the spring hunt.

Yes, it is possible for some hunters to correctly identify a nursing female without cubs but is has also been proven across North America that in any spring bear hunt nursing females get shot and cubs are abandoned. Those cubs waiting back in their nurse tree for their mother to return drive to them descend to the ground due to fear and hunger to search for their mother. The cubs will encounter the threats of predators and roads or face a slower death of starvation and dehydration.

Pro-spring bear hunters will say cubs die of these natural causes anyway without the spring hunt. Yes, they do. But that doesn’t make it okay for our government to initiate a regulated activity that increases the likelihood of bear cubs being orphaned. Despite the many hunters who believe they are expert enough to avoid making a mistake, more cubs than normal will be abandoned if the spring hunt is implemented. It will especially happen in the first years of this new hunt.

Our province doesn’t even permit wildlife rehabilitators to take in abandoned bear cubs and raise and release them back into the wild when they are independent. That goes for any injured bear as well. DNRR may claim that there is not enough crown land area to responsibly release rehabilitated bears into the wild. The same rhetoric the department uses to justify for why “nuisance bears” are dispatched instead of trapped and relocated.

Why would Nova Scotians support sanctioning a new hunting season for bears when it will only further compound the existing problem of wise bear management in the province. Unlike other provinces there has been very little to no investment in public education programs about coexisting with bear populations. These programs have proven to be able to reduce human-bear conflicts.
There lacks solid data to support the notion toted around by pro-bear hunting crowds, that increasing hunting pressure decreases human-bear conflicts. This may be true in very high bear density areas where there is a high take of bear during the hunt, but this is not the norm. There is strong data from studies showing that human-bear conflicts can increase after the implementation of a spring bear hunt.

The increase in problem bear encounters following a spring hunt may be attributed to “food-conditioning” when bears become accustomed to seeking out human food sources, due to exposures to baiting stations during the hunt. It may also be attributed to the hunt targeting more mature bears (more meat and biggest pelts) and leaving more adolescent bears in the population. Young bears are much more likely to get into trouble with people than adults.

There is just too much guess work and too many consequences for bears, and people alike, for DNRR to so quickly propose and potentially implement a new spring bear hunt. DNRR continues to demonstrate that they lack the resources to manage natural resources responsibly. This willy-nilly approach by the government and its catering to the vocal minority of bear hunters at the expense of other rights and the rights of wildlife should be alarming to Nova Scotians. This hunt is not some huge economic driver like it is in Ontario where the spring bear hunts bring in some 40million to the province, largely due to tourist outfitting and non-resident hunting license fees.

DNRR have not undertaken any extensive studies to accurately assess the provinces bear population size and dynamics, This research is necessary in order to determine the sustainability of enacting a spring bear hunt on top of the fall bear hunt. Using “nuisance bear” reports and fall bear hunter surveys is not a replacement for research science and not an acceptable te bear population modelling tool. At the very least, Nova Scotians should be demanding a halt on implementing the hunt for the next few years until DNRR have the capacity to properly undertake a long-term bear population study to assess the health of the black bear population in the province.

I don’t believe there are enough actual devoted bear hunters in Nova Scotia warranting a spring hunt. I don’t believe that the government needs to listen to the rationale of the pro-spring hunt lobbyists who just need something to shoot at in the spring. Groups like the Nova Scotia Chapter of Safari Club International may feel that a spring bear hunt provides an opportunity for people to obtain fresh wild meat outside of the fall hunting season (when most hunting seasons occur). I don’t agree with that rationale to support implementing a new bear hunt.

I think that people can live without bear meat in the spring. Fishing and eating wild fish is a source of meat available in the spring. There seems to be an over-abundance of deer in many areas of the province. Why isn’t the province doing more to expanded or create new seasons for reducing numbers of deer? Deer can provide lots of meat throughout the year to a large proportion of people in need. Perhaps the fall bear hunt could be extended by a week as an alternative if there are that many people in the province desiring opportunity to hunt bear?

A bear’s pelt is certainly excellent quality in spring before shedding its winter coat, unlike the quality of the fall bear pelts. One might wonder which is the true motivation for the spring bear hunt advocates. Is it just for another opportunity to legally shoot an animal? Is it just for the story and the pelt to display. Is to keep the “traditions” of hunting alive? Is it to promote conservation and sustainable wildlife management in Nova Scotia? Is it because of the belief that it somehow increases human safety having fewer bears in Nova Scotia? Is just because Nova Scotia is the only province with a black bear population without a spring hunt and hunters feel this is unjust?

I support hunting when it is sustainable. I eat and enjoy wild meat. I enjoy the traditions of the harvest. But I am a realist. No one needs bear meat or a bear pelt this badly to warrant a new bear hunting season in spring. It will not just be a “pilot” program. It will become permanent and without the proper science to support it. Females with cubs will be shot. More cubs will be abandoned and die. I do not desire a world where I share the forest with fewer bear. I do not agree with constituting a second season for bear hunting. I do not support the spring bear hunt.

Please act now. The deadline for commenting is Saturday February 24, 2023! If you feel strongly about this issue, please educate yourself more on the matter (there is lots of online articles and content on the issue). Add your voice to others in opposition of the spring bear hunt. Submit your comments to the Nova Scotia government by filling out the survey available at: or send your comments to:

You may also wish to send a letter directly to your local MLA and or Tory Rushton, Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables at: There is an online petition sponsor titled “Stop the Proposed Spring Bear Hunt in Nova Scotia” available at You may also wish to read and draw from letters by the Nova Scotia

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