May 01 2015
By Al Raychard
Estimated Population: 10,000
Bag Limit: One bear. The killing of females accompanied by one of more cubs is prohibited.
Bear Range/Legal Hunting Areas: Bears are apt to be found province-wide.
Hunting is allowed province-wide except on some crown and public lands.
Spring Season: No
Fall Season: Yes. Opens 2nd Monday in September and ends 1st Saturday in December.
Popular/Common Hunting Methods: The majority of bears are hunted over bait. All non-resident hunters must hunt with a licensed guide.
License Availability/Cost: Hunting license and permits are available locally at DNR office or at vendors. Non-resident Bear Hunting License: $120.91 plus tax; Resident Bear License: $25.78 plus tax. Hunters should check latest regulation summary or with licensed guides/outfitters for additional details.
Legal Weapons: Rifles with .23 caliber and larger, shotguns .410 and larger, muzzleloaders .45 and larger, bow with 40 pound draw and higher and crossbows with 150 pound draw and larger.
Contacts: Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources: (902) 424-5200
(800) 670-4357: www.novascotia.caq/natr/hunt
Compared to other provinces in Canada we don’t hear much about bear hunting opportunities in Nova Scotia. This may be due to several key factors of prime interest to hunters looking to book a hunt, the least of which is unlike most other provinces, including New Brunswick to the east and Newfoundland, Nova Scotia has no spring bear season. As a consequence, although resident interest in bear hunting has been increasing in recent years with bear license sales jumping from 498 in 2000 to more than 6,720 in 2014, non-resident participation is historically low. In 2012 just 62 non-resident bear permits were sold. In 2013 the number was 93.
Where those numbers may go in the future is anyone’s guess but hopes among guides and outfitters that cater to bear hunters they will increase anytime soon do not appear high, especially considering pleas to establish a spring season since the early 1990s have gone unanswered and both New Brunswick and Newfoundland have long offered spring and fall opportunities. Along with that Newfoundland offers multiple bears per license and given that New Brunswick not only extended its fall season in 2014 but in 2015 will offer resident and non-resident hunters the opportunity to purchase a second bear license will make attracting hunters more of a challenge for Nova Scotia.
In the competitive bear hunting market the lack of a spring season and multiple bear opportunities is a definite disadvantage in terms of attracting hunters. In most jurisdictions non-resident spring hunting participation far outnumber resident participation and the chance for a second bear has proven a major draw in other jurisdictions that have them.
But another factor for low non-resident hunter participation might be while other bear hunting destinations, including both New Brunswick and Newfoundland have had vibrant, organized guides/outfitter hunting sectors for years who by various means aggressively sought the bear hunting market, the marketing of bear hunting in Nova Scotia has not been as well organized nor as aggressive in the attempt to attract hunters. Because of that many would-be fall hunters looking to get away from high-pressured areas or wanting to see different territory are simply not aware of the high-quality fall bear hunting opportunities Nova Scotia offers.
With all this aside, when it comes to eastern North America fall bear hunting opportunities among those who have hunted and hunt there the fact that Nova Scotia is not overly publicized, reached the level of notoriety at other eastern hotspots and its bear population is not highly pressured by non-resident hunters is one of its major attractions. This means a couple things that make Nova Scotia an attractive destination even though other popular fall-only destinations may be closer and require less time to reach.
According to latest estimates Nova Scotia is home to 10,000 black bear. In area the province covers some 21,425 square miles, the second smallest province in Canada. Newfoundland covers nearly 44,000 square miles, more than twice as large, yet is home to about the same number of bears. New Brunswick is a tad larger than Nova Scotia and has a larger bear population but bear densities are about the same, according to most studies from .5 to 1.5 bear per square mile, depending upon location. With fewer hunters, and a healthy number of bears statistics suggest the chances of bagging a bruin is as good in Nova Scotia as anywhere in Maritime Canada.
This seems to be the case. In 2012 and 2013 Nova Scotia hunters killed 1,305 and 1,898 bear, respectively, and had annual success rates on par with fall success rates in neighboring and other provinces. And many outfitters are reporting close to 100-percent shot opportunity and camp kill rates in the 80 and 90 percent range.
The same statistics and factors also suggest Nova Scotia bears have an opportunity to live to adult age and good size. At most lodges bears in the 200 to 400 pound range appear to be nothing unusual and record book heads are taken each year. Along with light hunting pressure, Nova Scotia is blessed with an abundant array of protein and calorie-rich late summer and fall bear foods that help bear put on weight for winter and before and during the hunting season. Among other foods, Nova Scotia is one of the largest blueberry producers in Canada.
Nearly 70 percent of the province, including much of the best timber lands and bear habitat is also privately owned where owner permission to access and hunt is required by regulation. While hunting is allowed on crown and other public lands, baiting, the most common hunting tactic is not on all of it. And while outfitters have acquired the necessary access and hunting rights on lands they do not own most accommodate a limited number of hunters per week and season. Each of these factors have not only contributed to Nova Scotia’s bear quality in terms of age and size but high camp success rates as well.