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Hunting in Canada has become particularly vulnerable. Of particular concern is a current bill that is making its way through Canada’s federal parliament. The new law, if passed, would punish acts of animal cruelty with criminal prosecution and there are no clear exceptions for hunting or agriculture. Experts believe that there is no coincidence in the timing of HSUS report and believe that it is a part of a strategic plan aimed at eliminating hunting in the United States and that these strategies are being fielded and legally, as well as publicly, tested abroad before being brought here. Many point to Ontario’s 1999 ban on spring black bear hunting as an example of what animal-rights groups can do in Canada and the same tactics are being incorporated into similar fights in the U.S.

On January 15, 1999, known as “Black Friday” by many Canadian sportsmen and outfitters alike, the Ontario government terminated spring bear hunting in the province. The closure was based on misinformation spread by animal-rights groups and anti-hunting organizations about sows with cubs being killed and the plight of the orphaned cubs. These falsehoods were exploited by liberal politicians and caused the elimination of the spring hunts.

Provincial Biologists estimate Ontario’s black bear population to be healthy and in upwards of 100,000 animals. The annual harvest from hunting accounts for less than 10 percent of the total and has little effect on the overall population. But, according to the politicians, some 300 cubs are orphaned annually and many more are killed by hunters. However, these statistics could not be documented and even the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Enforcement Section cited only one case in 1995 of a hunter being convicted for shooting a sow with cubs. Even though the scientific data, Provincial game enforcement reports and harvest information did not support the argument being made, the antis and politicians were successful in shutting down the season.

According to the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), more than $40 million annual revenue from spring bear hunters is now lost, much of this money being spent in rural communities with little other income sources. The OFAH is appealing the decision to eliminate spring black bear hunting in court and is also sponsoring efforts to protect hunting as a constitutional right. The Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitter’s Association was also taking the issue into court, but has withdrawn its challenge when they learned they would lose their annual grant if the group perused the matter. The Ontario Black Bear Association has also filled suite seeking government compensation based on loss of earnings for their members (mainly guides and outfitters) due to the cancellation of the spring hunts.

The elimination of spring black bear hunting in Ontario resulted from lies being perpetuated on a population, which mainly resides in large cities and towns. Most don’t hunt or are not employed in the outdoors industries or tourism. As an example, less than 6 percent of the 11 million residents of Ontario hunt and many of them are apathetic about protecting their rights as hunters and firearms owners.

In June of 2000, the New Jersey’s Fish and Game Council (FGC), based on sound management advice from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) and some 1,600 nuisance bear complaints ranging from persistent garbage-can raids to home invasion and several incidents of pet and livestock kills, proposed a limited black bear season. The FGC issued some 5,000 special bear tags, planning to end the hunt once the goal number had been reached. Their intended goal of 175 animals had previously been lowered from 300 based on pressure from animal-rights activists. Just prior to the hunt, the first for bear in the garden state in some 30 years, an anti-hunting coalition, including the New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance (ARA) along with HSUS, the Sierra Club and private citizens filed suit challenging DFW’s and FGC’s authority to manage the state’s wildlife. The suit also alleged that the proposed season was not based on any biological or scientific research and that the regulations for the proposed season had not followed proper rule-making procedure (Sound familiar?)!

Then Governor, Christie Whitman, bowing to the antis’ pressure, strongly urged the FGC to rescind the hunt. The Council agreed, canceling the six-day hunt just before it began. Whitman proposed new strategies for dealing with problem bears and money for public education, however, nothing in her proposal addressed the real issue; dealing with the growing black bear population in northwestern New Jersey. This has led some Council members to reconsider their original opinions and some now believe that the only proper management tool to control the state’s burgeoning bruin population is…Sport Hunting!

Currently, the NJ State Assembly is considering AB No. 479, which would appropriate nearly $100,000 to the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to develop programs to reduce the state’s bear population. But, according to the bill, the programs must be developed in conjunction with HSUS and will not include hunting! The bill also bans Garden State bear hunting for five years, unless otherwise authorized by the state’s Governor or legislature.

What is really appalling is the fact that politicians are ignoring the facts and their own wildlife managers to play to misinformed public sentiments. The government is willing to turn taxpayer money over to groups whose sole purpose is to eliminate hunting should not sit well with anyone who believes in a fair democratic process. Many observers feel that this bill could set a very dangerous legal precedent in future hunting issues.

The antis’ new strategy seems to file legal suits questioning the state’s Fish and Game Agencies authority, attacking sound biological and management practices and thereby, eliminating any scientific evidence, allowing the uninformed public and Courts to rule purely on emotion and not the facts!

The current strategies and legislative attempts being employed by the antis will affect us as hunters, firearms and gundog owners and there are many more on the horizon! With each of these bills that becomes law, our freedoms are slowly being eroded. If you believe your rights are worth preserving and that future generations of hunters and firearm owners are entitled to these same rights, then please get involved and make your opinions known!
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