The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is losing $50 million from its budget this year if the provincial government’s bill passes third reading.
That drops the ministry from $713.3 million in funding in 2011-2012 to $687.1 million, taking it nearly to the 2009-2010-budget rate of $685 million.
To cut costs the MNR is paring back the Bear Wise program by cutting down the number of bear technicians it hires on six-month contracts and ending the practice of trapping nuisance bears.
In Parry Sound-Muskoka the number of technicians is expected to drop from three to one.
This at a time when McDougall is entering its first summer after banning bear feeding, with Seguin Township looking to follow suit.
In both townships, community members have or are leaving food for the wild animals in their back yards.
The ministry, for its part, said the public can still call the Bear Wise hotline “to provide advice on how to minimize attractants - that hasn’t changed. The majority of human-bear conflicts are the result of bears being attracted to our communities by non-natural food sources. We can all do our part to eliminate attractants and keep our communities safe.”
Bears are a fact of life in Parry Sound and area, and the ministry is right that everyone has a responsibility to bring in their bird feeders for the summer and keep garbage in a secure location, but that doesn’t wipe out the reality that sometimes bears do become a nuisance and some do feed them, making them presumably more comfortable around people instead of wary.
Last year, there were 962 calls to the ministry in Parry Sound alone about bears, of those 23 were trapped and 26 were killed.
Grandmothers aren’t going to cut down the apple tree in their backyard, bears who’ve been fed by area residents aren’t going to stop looking to people for an easy meal, and frightening stories of children too close to a mom and her cubs aren’t likely to end.
Let’s hope there’s a thorough review of the program this fall to determine the true impact of the cuts.
Out of $50 million cuts, the Bear Wise program is a small portion, but it has a big impact on the ministry’s presence in the community.