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Letter: Hunting to blame for declining moose herds

By: Letter to the Editor

 | May 09, 2014 - 10:43 AM |
Re: Article “Declining moose herds hit outfitters hard,” which appeared on NorthernLife.ca April 17.

I was passing through Sudbury a few days ago and saw an April 17 article on the reduction in moose tags.

There is an MNR publication, 1999-2000 Moose Harvest Results, that notes that many Wildlife Management Units are overharvested and that the total provincial harvest exceeds the planned harvest by over 15 percent.

This is a huge number in terms of population dynamics. That report was published in 2002 and to my knowledge, nothing of substance has been done to address the problem.

While managers and hunters may prefer to blame First Nations, wolves, poaching, global warming, and a myriad of other excuses for the population decline, the most compelling evidence, supported by MNR’s own data, is over-hunting.

Blame who they want, and whether legitimate or not, the only mortality factor that managers can control is hunting. Aboriginals have a treaty right, and who would trust MNR to “manage” wolves when they can’t manage moose?

Moose management is far more complex than the “population up, tags up” logic held by most hunters and managers.

Because killing success increases faster than population growth, in most Ontario units tags will have to be reduced to maintain growth.

Otherwise the increasing harvest will suspend populations well below the capability of the land to support moose.

If global warming is the base problem, then excessive killing sure isn’t helping.

There is no such thing as a “harvestable surplus” in a declining population.

In my opinion, the greatest threat to moose populations, moose hunting and the northern economies they support, is that moose management is vested in the hands of hunters alone.

When they start to include knowledgeable non-hunters who may have a longer-term vision and challenge the logic of sustained over-harvest to placate hunters and outfitters, perhaps moose will not only endure, but thrive.

Alan R. Bisset
Northwest regional moose biologist, MNR (retired)
Kenora, Ont.

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