The small First Nation community of ?Esdilagh in Quesnel, B.C., has declared a ban on harvesting moose within its traditional territory, in a move, it says, addresses gaps in the provincial government's response.
Moose populations in the territory are already at an unprecedented low level, says the First Nation, and community members fear the 2017 wildfires have further threatened them.
"Allowing a moose hunt after the wildfires could decimate the entire moose population in our territory," said ?Esdilagh First Nation Chief Roy Stump, one of the six Tsilhqot'in Nation communities.
"We cannot afford to lose anything else and we are alarmed that the province of B.C. has failed to take action."
Province allows limited entry hunts in Cariboo
Firefighting efforts this summer resulted in new roads and access points into sensitive moose habitat.
On Oct. 6, the province closed certain parts of the Cariboo region heavily impacted by the wildfires, yet left other areas open to limited entry hunts for moose.
While some hunters criticized the move, local First Nations say the closures don't go far enough.
"I am particularly proud of my community members for making a decision that exercises our jurisdiction and for demonstrating how we take responsibility to preserve and protect our wildlife for future generations," said Chief Stump.
"We are willing to forego our Aboriginal rights to hunt moose and we expect the province to rescind the remaining 2017 limited entry hunt authorizations for conservation purposes.'
"We also expect B.C. to commit substantial resources to work with us to protect and conserve the moose population."
Province says no to additional closures
Moose population estimates completed in January 2017 show moose continue to decline by approximately 30 per cent in the Cariboo region.
According to the First Nation, the province has no immediate plans for a population survey to determine how many moose are left following the wildfires.
However, in a statement sent late Monday, the province disagreed and says a population survey is planned for one zone in the Cariboo this winter which was not closed to hunting.
Despite ?Esdilagh's closures, the province says it does not plan its own additional closures.
"The conservative nature of the highly regulated bull moose harvest will not directly impact the overall moose population or moose recovery efforts for the area," a spokesperson for the Forest Ministry wrote in an email.
"As we continue to monitor the recovery of moose populations provincially, we will determine if further management actions are necessary."