A recent case of black bear gall bladder possession in northern Ontario prompted Mike Commito to investigate the transnational connections associated with bear hunting. Frequently black bears are harvested in one area but before or after processing their parts are destined for farther away locations, sometimes as part of an illegal black market trade. Through the course of his research on bear management in Ontario and New York State, Mike briefly takes us through a notable case of international black bear translocation that took place between Timmins, Ontario and the United Kingdom in 1959. The mayor of the gold mining town, Leo Del Villano, offered to organize a spring bear hunt in order to help refurbish the bearskin caps worn by the Queen’s Guards at Buckingham Palace. Consequently, sixty-two of northern Ontario’s black bears became unwitting actors in a broader campaign of maintaining the empire and civic boosterism. It was the last systematically organized spring bear hunt in Ontario and its worldwide publicity alerted many Ontarians to a form of hunting that would be highly contentious for another forty years until it was indefinitely repealed by the Conservative government.
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4 thoughts on “EHTV Episode 18 : The Royal Timmins Bear Hunt of 1959”
I find the story and the interest in northeastern Ontario bears interesting. However, the spring bear hunt did not cease to contentious with its repeal in 1999. It actually became more contentious. Sudbury and Thurnder Bay suffered from bear infestations in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and there continue to be more bears in cities than there were before 1999. Other communities also saw an increase in bear activity and northern Ontarians continue to be upset with the provincial government that cancelled the hunt. I recall the editorial opinion of the North Bay Nuggett, a daily paper, in 2010, that explained it could not endorse Tim Hudak for premier, despite otherwise finding him the best choice, because of his role in the hunt’s cancellation. In southern Ontario it was the hunt’s existence that was controversial while in the north, it was the cancellation.
Thanks for the feedback, David. You should pass this along to Mike.
Thanks for posting this on here Sean! Thanks for you comments David and not to worry, I only ended the video with a mention of 1999 because I hope to make a follow-up episode for EHTV further down the road that examines the spring hunt debate from 1999 to the present. Up until the government implemented the Nuisance Bear Review Committee in 2002-2003 and then the Bear Wise program in 2004 there was always the possibility that the hunt would be reintroduced amidst heated debate. This was especially true when Eves was premier from 2002-2003 as his Minister of Natural Resources was the former president of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. Even now, nearly 15 years after the last spring hunt it is still a controversial issue. Recently, Sudbury, in particular, had a noteworthy summer in terms of nuisance bears and the cuts to the Ministry bear techs only exacerbated this situation. It will always be a sore spot for northern Ontario and depending on sociopolitical, bureaucratic and ecological (for the bears) changes this issue will still crop up especially in “New Ontario.” Happy holidays!
I look forward to watching the sequel to this episode. Thanks again for your contribution to EHTV.