Animal rights groups have lobbied for the cancellation of Manitoba's spring hunting season for American black bear (Ursus americanus), contending that hundreds of cubs are orphaned each year. We developed a mathematical model to estimate the number of black bear cubs that may be orphaned in Manitoba because of the spring hunting season. The model used information from annual questionnaires mailed to resident hunters, Outfitter Declaration Forms from operators who provide services to non-resident clients, and analysis of reproductive tracts (>200 for both spring and fall seasons) and tooth samples (>1,100). To accurately reflect the number of cubs orphaned each spring, the model accounted for cub losses (both litter reduction and total litter loss) prior to a female being harvested using values from the literature. Although the data was not used in the model, evidence from the examination of reproductive tracts suggests that total litter loss of hunter killed bears can be determined by examining the condition of the uterus and ovaries. The model estimated that on average, 41 cubs were orphaned for each of the spring seasons between 1996 and 2000. This number represents <2% of the estimated number of cubs that may die annually in Manitoba from natural causes.
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Vol. 15 • No. 1