Long-Term Sustainability of the Black Bear Population in Bruce Peninsula

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Government Proposing to Reduce Bear Hunting Season in Wildlife Management Units 82A, 83 and 84

Media Release, Ministry of 
Natural Resources and Forestry

Ontario has been refining how it manages black bears across the province for several decades. 

Using information from population surveys, hunting results, tag allocations, statistics from the Bear Wise reporting line, and science and research projects, the government has been working to ensure the long-term sustainability of black bear populations.

Genetic sampling 

Government staff set up survey sites baited with sardines in forested areas. As the bear enters the site, it brushes up against barbed wire strung around the area, leaving behind a hair sample.

Staff visit the sites once a week during late spring and early summer to collect these hair samples. The samples are sent for DNA analysis to determine the sex and number of new or returning bears.

Hair traps are a non-invasive means of collecting samples, and the information is used to estimate Ontario’s bear population. Sites for the annual surveys are chosen to be representative of the larger landscape within each Wildlife Management Unit.

Current provincial estimates

Ontario is home to a healthy and sustainable black bear population at the provincial scale. There are an estimated 85,000-105,000 black bears in the province.

Bruce Peninsula population

Black bears on the Bruce Peninsula represent a genetically isolated population, due to the fragmented geography of the area. Government staff have been working in collaboration with Bruce Peninsula National Park and the Saugeen Ojibway Nation to assess the status of the local black bear population between 2009 and 2018.

The research has indicated this population is at substantially higher risk than bear populations in other parts of the province due to its isolation and a high rate of human-caused mortality. There is concern current harvest rates may contribute to population decline.

To reduce the pressure on black bears in the Bruce Peninsula, the government is proposing to reduce the bear hunting season in Wildlife Management Units 82A, 83 and 84 to one week in the spring and close the fall hunting season entirely. It would continue to monitor and collect data to see if the proposed changes have the desired effect on the bear population in this area.

To comment on proposed changes to black bear management, see the notice on Ontario’s Environmental Registry at ero.ontario.ca and search black bear.