WINNIPEG — Every time the phone rings these days at Alan Meline’s hunting resort in Nestor Falls, Ont., he braces for more bad news.
All nine of his $2,500 bear-hunting reservations for August have been cancelled. Many more outdoor enthusiasts are threatening to cancel their hunts for deer and moose in October and November.
The vanished customers, all American, are worried they won’t be able to bring their kills home this year because the U.S. government has banned the import of some animal carcasses since Canada discovered a cow infected with mad-cow disease two months ago.
“It hurts. Hurts bad,” Mr. Meline said from his lodge about 70 kilometres northwest of Fort Frances, Ont. “Think about how many failures there will be up here, bankruptcies and foreclosures. I bet there will be plenty.”
Hunting season has yet to begin in many parts of Canada, so the tourism industry has not felt the same devastation as the cattle industry from the closing of the U.S. border. But many outfitters are already reporting cancellations. Roughly 4,600 non-residents, mostly from the United States, visit Ontario each fall to hunt deer and moose, said Tannis Drysdale, president of the Northwestern Ontario Associated Chambers of Commerce, and each usually spends about $6,000 during the visit.
“We know those people probably won’t be coming under current circumstances,” Ms. Drysdale said.
Those circumstances are exacerbated by misinformation south of the border about exactly what the new rules are, said Laurie Marcil, manager of the Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters Association.
Some U.S. newspapers have reported that bear carcasses will be stopped at the border, Ms. Marcil said. That’s not correct: a U.S. Department of Agriculture statement says the ban affects only the meat, brains and untreated hides of ruminant animals such as deer, elk, bison, caribou, moose, musk ox, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and mountain goat. Hunters are still allowed to take antlers and finished trophies across the border, but many lodge owners say that will create an expensive problem: finding enough taxidermists, and either selling or freezing the meat.
The worst-affected area will likely be Northern Ontario if the restrictions remain in place, Ms. Drysdale said, judging by the fact that 40 per cent of all non-resident gun permits in the country are issued at the Fort Frances border crossing.
One of the first groups to feel the pinch will be the caribou hunters in Quebec because their season starts Aug. 1, said Dominic Dugré of the Fédération des pourvoiries du Québec.
“The deadline for many outfitters is this week or next week, to start calling their clients and telling them, okay, you should cancel,” Mr. Dugré said.
Some hunting associations have suggested that the federal government should negotiate the issue with the United States separately from the beef ban, but they say it has been difficult to get attention from the media and the Canadian and U.S. governments.
“It hasn’t been getting much attention, and that’s too bad because it’s a big issue,” said Jim Ticknor, executive director of the Manitoba Lodge and Outfitters Association. Manitoba usually issues about 2,500 non-resident deer tags every season, Mr. Ticknor said, and each tag generates about $2,000 to $3,000 in revenue for an outfitter. U.S. citizens visiting Canada spend about $700-million on “wildlife-related activities” each year, Mr. Dugré said.