Burlington MPP McKenna doesn’t buy the government statement on how roaming black bears should be handled.

By Pepper Parr

Burlington, ON  May 24, 2012  Burlington MPP Jane McKenna isn’t letting the provincial government forget about the impact their budget cuts are having on this city. In a comment on a statement made by the Ministry of Natural Resources in the Legislature where he said:  “The plan has been, or the protocol has been, for many, many years that when there is an issue related to public safety, indeed we do suggest that you should be calling the police. If there’s a real public safety issue, the police are the ones who can manage that. There are more of them than there are of us in terms of managing that.

“We will continue to work with the police forces, particularly in situations of an emergency, and in fact, there’s a situation going on right now in southern Ontario, which always draws a lot of interest, when you have a bear down in southern Ontario. Our ministry people are working with the police force, in fact, in Halton right now. So the long and the short is that if indeed a decision is made, where it’s clear that there is some assistance required to potentially immobilize-i.e., tranquilize-the bear, we will still be in a position to do that.”

Burlington MPP Jane McKenna isn't buying the explanation the government has given about managing the black bear problem - and she knows her bears.

McKenna wasn’t buying that response from the Minister and said: “a 400-pound adult male black bear was shot to death in Mountainside Park by Halton police officers. They had contacted the MNR for help but no assistance was available.”

McKenna adds that “MNR staff reportedly advised Halton Police that in order to immobilize a bear it needs to be contained up a tree while the sedatives kick in — apparently this can take 15-20 min and in a residential setting, there is concern that the bear will still be on the move during that time.

She went on to say that “the City of Burlington’s Animal Control were also unequipped to deal with the situation, though they were contacted by police. It’s not hard to imagine why they’d be outmatched: I doubt they have ever had to contend with anything bigger than a Great Dane, and probably spend most of their time on skunks and raccoons.

McKenna believes there is “some mixed messaging going on anyway. In their coverage of this story, the CBC wrote that “Minister Gravelle… said that the ministry would no longer tranquilize and relocate rogue bears, arguing that the practice wasn’t working and bears continued to return to the same areas.” Which makes it sound they’re spending half the money but getting something totally useless.

McKenna, who seems to know a lot more about black bears and their habits reported that “black bear season generally runs mid-August to Halloween, but I don’t think Hamilton/Halton is zoned for that (Glanbrook maybe). Population displacement through increased development in rural areas is probably responsible for some of these unusual visitors, and the mild winter probably didn’t help either. Look at what’s happened to the fruit farmers in southern Ontario.

Police succesfully tranquilized this bear and then caught it when it fell to the ground. Burlington wasn't able to do this -we had to kill the bear we found.

“Black bears are omnivores but seem to be largely herbivores, eating mainly plants and berries but choosing meat when they find dead animals or garbage. Residents are advised to reduce risk of attracting bears by taking sensible steps: Store garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids, only put out garbage the morning of pickup (works against raccoons as well). Rethink your bird feeders, since suet, seed and nectar attract bears. And of course keep a clean grill — bears can smell food from a great distance and don’t mind traveling to get to it if they’re hungry.

McKenna adds that “police acknowledge that the shooting was a sub-par conclusion but say they didn’t have a lot of options. As it stands, it’s just another vivid example of the 2012 Budget in action. And we’ve barely even started.

It should be added that since the Legislature returned there hasn’t been a single piece of legislation passed.  The Legislature is due to break on June7th.

The issue of the police having the resources they need is being put on the table at a Halton Police Services Board meeting on Thursday by Burlington Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven.  You can bet that the police don’t ever want to find themselves in this kind of a situation again.

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