Earlier in the week, there was a ‘black bear hunt prize in Saskatchewan, Canada’ prize offered by Bear Down Outfitters – the relevant facebook page has now disappeared, but had some 600 likes before its demise.
It got me looking at the whole issue of black bear hunting in Saskatchewan, with some surprising results.
I looked at the Saskatchewan Wildlife Management, Report 2013 -14. The population ‘count’ of black bears changed in 2014:
“During 2014 black bear populations were monitored based on reports from hunters, ministry staff and from crop and bee-yard damage compensation data provided by SCIC. It is planned to initiate a hunter harvest survey for bear in 2015.”
The Report 2013 -14 (p58 -63) has no data on bear harvest numbers after 2010/11 – Saskatchewan resident hunters (licenses) have risen from 1,954 (2006) to 4,153 (2014), ‘harvesting’ 895 bears in 2009, but no harvest data after 2009 – why?
Non-resident hunter licences were around 1,651 (2014), with some 1,074 bears taken in 2010 by 1,439 non-resident hunter license holders, but no bear harvest data after 2010 – again why?
So, with the “hunter harvest survey for bear in 2015” (results still due it seems) we have an example of a proposed population estimate (some algorithm) being based on how ‘successful’ (ie. easy) it has been for hunters to “harvest” bears. The logic being, the easier it is to kill a bear, the more bears there must be, right? The results for the 2015 hunters’ survey are not available (yet), only 2014 results are available on the web-site, but even this does not include black bears (?).
There appears to be a big hole in bear harvest data from 2010/11 to 2015 (and black bear population data). So how does the Saskatchewan Wildlife Management department know how many black bears it might be safe to harvest in the 2016 season? Or are they keeping the data a secret, or basing their judgements on “anecdotal evidence” only?
The Saskatchewan Wildlife Management Report 2013 -14 (page 61) report concludes:
“Based on anecdotal evidence collected during the period it appears that bear populations were generally stable or increasing. Increases were mainly reported in the east-central and southeast areas.”
So the hunters and authorities must know what they are doing, right?
[Update] The latest available (web-site/public) “Saskatchewan Wildlife Management Report 2017,” table 23, Non-resident black bear data could be described at best as ‘sketchy.’ Page 61 of the same report states that a long term objective is to assess black bear population trends. I can find no further public information/updates if any such population assessment has been made or is planned (where accurate population data is clearly essential for any hunting sustainability claims of course).