The meat harvested from a moose cull in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park this month will help feed hungry families across Nova Scotia this winter.
The hunt was conducted by the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources of Eskasoni, in partnership with Parks Canada. The goal was to reduce damage to boreal forest caused by moose browsing.
The cull was initially halted by non-aboriginal hunters who staged a protest; some were opposed to the hunt, while others wanted to be included. The protest was eventually called off and the cull resumed this month.
Over two weeks, 37 moose were harvested. Clifford Paul, Unama'ki's moose management initiative co-ordinator, said the meat from those animals will go a long way.
"I don't want to even calculate how many meals that represents," he said. "But it does bring a lot food to the tables across the province. To many families, both Mi'kmaq and non-Mi'kmaq families."
Meat already distributed
Paul said some of the meat has already been distributed to First Nations communities on Cape Breton and in other parts of Nova Scotia.
One moose will shared by families in need in communities around North Mountain, where the hunt took place.
Another went to the province's correction services via the Mi'kmaq Legal Support Network.
"They had a powwow at Waterville [youth facility]," said Paul. "Elders came in and did a ceremony and they had a big feast of moose meat.
"People in the justice system, they're hungry for moose, too. Everybody is."
Hundreds of kilos
Another two moose — an estimated 450 kilograms of meat — will go to Feed Nova Scotia to be distributed through food banks across the province. Spokesperson Karen Theriault said that represents about 5,000 servings.
"Protein is always a high-demand item, just because of the nutritional value that it packs, but especially when it comes to fresh meat, that is huge," she said. "It's absolutely an exciting donation for us to get."
Paul said the meat will mean a lot to Mi'kmaq families, too.
"The way you gotta look at it from the traditional point of view is the moose is a gift from the creator for families to survive these harsh winters," he said. "It's very much appreciated. And I know the children in our community sure love it."
The pelts from the harvested moose will go to elders to make clothing and other traditional items.