TORONTO -- Ontario is going ahead with a controversial pilot project letting residents in the province hunt bears this spring.

A spokesman for Natural Resources Minister David Orazietti says the pilot starts May 1 and will run for six weeks in eight wildlife areas known for having the most public safety incidents involving the animals.

Andrew Donnachie says the government is trying something new to cut down the number of emergency calls and instances of police forced to shoot nuisance bears after what he called costly and ineffective trap-and-relocation efforts.

Donnachie says the hunt will be strictly not for profit and return again next spring, with further details coming later this month.

Animal rights activists -- including former TV host Bob Barker -- have slammed the bear hunt plan as unnecessary and barbaric, saying the number of bear encounters varies not with their population but rather the natural food supply.

The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters has backed the pilot.

The spring bear hunt was cancelled in 1999.