Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Ontario Nature Action Alert: Wolf and Coyote Hunting Regulations

To comment directly on EBR Registry Number 012-6073 go to the Environmental Registry, create an account and submit your comments online by January 18, 2016

On December 17, 2015, Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) posted a nasty surprise on the Environmental Registry: a proposal to weaken wolf and coyote protection in northern Ontario (EBR Registry Number 012-6073). The holiday timing ensured that as little attention as possible would be given to the issue before the January 18 deadline.

The Ministry is proposing to remove the game seal requirement for wolves and coyotes in northern Ontario. This means that anyone with a small game licence would be legally permitted to kill up to two wolves and an unlimited number of coyotes per year. The excuse? Moose populations are in decline. The reality? MNRF’s proposal to increase hunting of wolves and coyotes is unlikely to benefit moose, and may have other unintended negative consequences.

Removing the requirement to purchase a game seal eliminates the hassle for hunters – anyone can shoot a wolf or coyote, on the spot. At the same time, it eliminates an important source of funding for research and MNRF enforcement of hunting regulations (Game seals cost about $11.00 each for Ontario residents). It also gets rid of mandatory reporting requirements regarding wolf and coyote sightings and hunting effort – information which helps inform management strategies for moose and predators alike.

Is this under-funded ministry needlessly shooting itself in the foot?

Indeed, MNRF’s own report, “Factors that affect moose survival,” suggests that the proposal is unlikely to have the intended impact:

“The number of moose killed per wolf pack will not significantly decrease as the pack size is reduced, so removing just a few wolves from each pack will not decrease overall predation on moose. … Only in limited circumstances may small reductions in pack size result in minor reductions in predation that benefit moose populations in localized areas.”

In the event that large numbers of predators are killed, however, there could well be unintended repercussions. Many scientists have underlined the importance of apex predators such as wolves and their “disproportionately significant” role in the survival of native species and ecosystems. The loss of these so-called “strongly interactive animals,” even locally, can “precipitate ecological chain reactions” (M.E. Soule et al, 2005).

For example, regarding wolf removal in Alberta intended to benefit caribou, S.K. Wasser et al. (2011) warn that a rapid expansion of deer populations is likely, with an increased risk of disease transmission, highly variable predator-prey oscillations and marked alterations in vegetation. They recommend that management “prioritize and exhaust feasible actions to control human use on this landscape before triggering more extreme actions, such as predator removal.”

A similarly cautious approach is surely advisable in Ontario as well. Weakening protections for wolves and coyotes in northern Ontario is a lose-lose proposition: if only a few predators are killed, it won’t do much for t moose; if a substantial number are killed it could well trigger a cascade of problems for moose and other species.

Please join Ontario Nature in urging the MNRF to:
1) maintain existing hunting activity reporting and game seal requirements across Ontario; and
2) determine better ways to deal with the moose decline in northern Ontario.


Re. EBR Registry Number 012-6073

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Ontario Action Alert: Bird Fatality Light Awareness Issue

Click here to link directly to the Ontario Nature Action Alert

Ontario is proposing to weaken legal protection for migratory birds by exempting commercial building owners from a key provision of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA). The proposed regulatory amendment would remove the requirement for owners to deal with light reflected from tall commercial buildings, which is known to lead to the death or injury of millions of birds in Ontario every year.

Please join Ontario Nature in helping oppose this proposal (EBR Registry Number 012-3605)!

In 2013, an Ontario court ruled reflected light from building windows to be a ‘contaminant’ under the EPA. The court confirmed that the Province had the legal authority to require building owners to deal with light reflected from windows that were at high risk of killing or injuring birds. Yet, instead of acting upon the findings of the court, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) is proposing to give up its power to protect migratory birds from reflected light.

The 2014 – 2015 Annual Report of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario called out the MOECC for abdicating its responsibility:

“… it appears that the ministry’s preferred approach is to ignore its regulatory responsibility and leave it up to property owners and managers to voluntarily follow guidelines and suggested strategies.” (p. 63)

Voluntary approaches will not address the problem. Based on over two decades of work by the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) Canada, it is clear that most commercial building owners will not take voluntary action.

Millions of birds, including many species at risk, will continue to die if the problem of reflected light is not adequately addressed. Sadly, these deaths are preventave. Technical solutions are available, but they will continue to be ignored without the compliance and enforcement measures in place to drive uptake by commercial building owners.

Join Ontario Nature in urging the MOECC not to proceed with this ill-founded proposal. Let the ministry know that Ontarians expect it to strengthen environmental laws, not to weaken them by changing the rules to sidestep its duties.

Please send in comments by the December 04, 2015 deadline. You can go to the Ontario Nature  article to submit comments, being sure to reference Environmental Registry #012-3605. Or set yourself up with a user name on the Environmental Registry and you can post comments confidentially to Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner on this issue (Reference  Environmental Registry #012-3605) and other notices posted directly on  Ontario’s Environmental Registry site on-line.

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Unfair chase: The spring bear hunt is bad policy founded on bad science

logo_OntarioNatureHomeThe Ontario government is proposing to extend the two-year spring bear hunt pilot for another five years and to expand it into all areas where fall bear hunting is currently allowed (EBR Registry Number: 012-5485). The excuse? Public safety. The reality? Study after study shows that shooting more bears does not reduce human-bear conflicts.
The government’s fall-back rationale is tourism dollars. Accordingly, the plan is to open up the hunt to trophy hunters from outside the country.Black-Bear_and_cub_Missy_Mandel_banner

Ontario’s spring bear hunt was originally cancelled in 1999. Many felt that the spring hunt was not sporting or fair chase as hungry bears came out of hibernation and were attracted to bait stations where they were shot by hunters waiting on platforms – like fish in a barrel. For the next 15 years, black bear hunting was limited to the fall. But in 2014 the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) decided to reinstate a limited spring hunt as a pilot.

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s 2014 – 2015 report provides troubling information about the so-called pilot. In reinstating the hunt, the ministry ignored the advice of its own expert Nuisance Bear Review Committee. It failed to put recommended conditions on the hunt such as: prohibiting the killing of all females; providing proof of the age and sex of the bears killed; and timing the hunt to reduce the vulnerability of females.

One thing the ministry did require was that hunters who had purchased a bear hunter licence tag report on their spring hunting activities. But less than 50 percent of the hunters complied with the requirement, begging the question of what the government could actually have learned from the pilot. As noted by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, “incomplete information on the number, age, sex and location of the bears harvested each year prevents the MNRF from effectively evaluating the hunt’s ecological impact and making informed management decisions.”

Indeed, collecting data on two critical factors that are known to lead to an increase in human-bear conflicts – natural food shortages and the availability of garbage – were not part of the ministry’s proposed approach.

Please join Ontario Nature in opposing the unjustifiable extension and expansion of the spring bear hunt. The government should be listening to experts and scientists who have found no evidence that the spring hunt reduces nuisance activity by black bears. Instead, the government should invest in educational programs and solutions to human-bear conflicts that are supported by evidence and science.

Please send in comments by the November 30 deadline. Be sure to reference Environmental Bill Registry #012-5485. Comments can be sent in via the EBR site also at this link. Search for EBR #012-5485.

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Ruling on exemption of many major industries from Endangered Species Act upheld

Message from Ontario Nature


click on logo for Ontario Nature website

Ontario Nature’s attempt to overturn Endangered Species Act exemptions for major industries fails:

Ontario Nature and Wildlands League sued the Ontario government over a regulation which exempts a wide range of resource extraction and other industrial activities from the requirements of the province’s Endangered Species Act (ESA). We were represented by Ecojustice lawyers. The grounds for the suit were first, whether the Minister of Natural Resources failed to assess the negative impact of his proposed regulation on all of the species that it would put in harm’s way; and second, whether the regulation was contrary to the ESA’s main purpose of protecting and recovering species at risk.

On May 29, 2015 Ontario’s Divisional Court upheld the provincial regulation that exempts many major industries — including forestry, energy transmission, housing, oil and gas pipelines, mineral exploration and mine development, transit, wastewater management companies — from the ESA and allows them to kill species at-risk and destroy their habitat.

This is a very disappointing decision. The survival of Ontario’s most vulnerable wildlife is now weighed against competing industrial interests, which may tip the scale towards extinction. Every single endangered and threatened species in the province is deprived of the full protection of the law. When it was introduced in 2007, the Endangered Species Act was considered the gold standard law for species protection in North America. Unfortunately, recent years have seen the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry shirk its duties to protect at-risk wildlife.

Some of Ontario’s 155 at-risk species threatened by the regulation include the American eel, Blanding’s turtle, lakeside daisy, eastern hog-nosed snake, Acadian flycatcher and the iconic woodland caribou.

While this is a setback, Ontario Nature remains committed to protecting endangered species.

  • Working with farmers through the ALUS Program to advance our common interest in stewardship for grassland species at risk, like the bobolink.
  • Promoting natural heritage systems planning at the municipal and regional level, including through the 2015 coordinate review of the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, Greenbelt Plan, Niagara Escarpment Plan and Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
  • Working with our Youth Council to protect pollinators – several of which are at risk – and calling for restrictions on toxic pesticides, especially neonicotinoids.
  • Advocating for new protected areas and sustainable management in the boreal forest, home to the threatened woodland caribou and many other species at risk.
  • Protecting rare and vulnerable habitats for endangered species on and in areas around our 24 nature reserves.
  • With the help of thousands of volunteers, compiling data on endangered reptiles and amphibians to inform conservation and recovery plans.

We are reviewing the decision with Wildlands League and Ecojustice and considering our options.


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Neonicotinoid Action Alert from Ontario Nature

Ontario Nature Action Alert – Nix the Neonics

Ontario is poised to take a significant step forward to protect bees and other pollinators by restricting the use and sale of neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics). The draft regulation is now open for public comment (Environmental Registry #012-3733). Please join Ontario Nature in supporting restrictions on neonics and asking for even tighter measures to control their use and sale in the province. The deadline for comments is May 7, 2015. Click here to submit your comments through the government of Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights.

There is no doubt that restrictions on neonics are needed. This was confirmed last year by the international Task Force on Systemic Pesticides in its Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impact of Systemic Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems, Science continues to emerge confirming the widespread, negative impacts of these pesticides. Significantly, this month the European Academies Science Advisory Council released a report outlining the severe negative effects of neonics on beneficial organisms that play a fundamental role in pollination, pest control and soil formation. Globally, these “ecosystem services” are worth billions of dollars every year to agricultural production.

Simply put: bees, birds, butterflies and other organisms that benefit food production end up the unintended victims of neonics. Sometimes these pesticides kill them outright. In other cases, the pesticides weaken their ability to resist disease, to reproduce, to feed, to navigate, to learn, and so on – a slower but sure path to the same sad end result.

The most widely used insecticide in the world, neonics are water soluble and persistent (i.e., lasting months and even years in the environment). In short, they are a sure recipe for trouble in farm fields and beyond.

Ontario’s proposed regulation confirms the province’s intent to reduce the number of acres planted with neonic-treated corn and soybean seeds by 80 percent by 2017. Ontario Nature supports this target as a reasonable and precedent-setting first step.

Particular strengths of the regulatory proposal include requirements for vendors to make untreated seeds available for sale, and to submit annual reports on sales and pest assessments to the government. Farmers must complete training programs on alternative pest management and ensure that independent, third-party assessors identify pest problems to authorize the use of neonics. Together, these measures will help ensure a transparent, accountable approach to neonic reductions.

Nevertheless, there is room for improvement. The draft regulation restricts only three of the five neonic active ingredients currently registered for use in Canada. While the other two ingredients are not currently used as seed treatments, such products may be registered in future. The government should take a more inclusive, precautionary approach so that restrictions automatically apply to new types of treated seeds, as they may pose equal or even greater risks to pollinators and the environment.

Further, the regulation sets out a slow five-year phase-in of the requirement for independent, third-party pest assessments. We are concerned that this will mean the 80 percent reduction target is not met by 2017.

Finally, there is no public reporting requirement on progress made towards reducing the sale and use of neonics. Given the public interest in achieving reductions, this information – which the government will be gathering – should be made readily available to the citizens of Ontario on an annual basis.   

Together we can ensure that Ontario is a North American leader in addressing pollinator decline. The first critical step is to reduce the use and sale of neonics. Please send in comments by the May 7 deadline. Be sure to reference Environmental Registry #012-3733.

For a copy of Ontario Nature’s full submission, please email me at .


Dr. Anne Bell
Director of Conservation and Education
Ontario Nature

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