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Meat from Cape Breton moose cull used to fight poverty in First Nations

A moose cull started by Parks Canada to control the population in the Cape Breton highlands is helping feed Indigenous communities, according to a Mi'kmaw scientist.

Meat from 35 moose killed by Mi'kmaq hunters in national park is being shared across the province

Moose have been culled from Cape Breton Highlands National Park since. (Brian Tucker)

A Mi'kmaw scientist says a moose cull in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park is one of the best ways to fight food insecurity in the province's First Nations communities.

A recent study found that Indigenous communities have some of the highest child poverty rates in Nova Scotia, ranging from 40 per cent in Wagmatcook to 73 per cent in Eskasoni.

Clifford Paul, a moose management co-ordinator with the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources in Eskasoni, consults on a Parks Canada project aimed a restoring the Cape Breton highlands boreal forest by reducing the number of moose feeding on saplings.

Since 2015, Mi'kmaq hunters have been allowed to kill a limited number of moose on North Mountain. This year they were allowed 35. Paul said the meat from those animals will feed many families. 

"For families on social assistance, it's hard for them to just buy meat from the grocery store," he said, "so this contribution of 35 moose across the province is a big thing and it sure helps families with food security issues."

Clifford Paul is co-ordinator of the moose management initiative at the Unima'ki Institute of Natural Resources. (Weldon Bona, Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources)

Paul said the moose meat is sent to all 13 Indigenous communities in Nova Scotia, but Eskasoni gets the lion's share because it has the largest population and the highest rate of poverty. He said the meat is healthier than anything found in grocery stores.

"There's no hormones, antibiotics," he said. "It's all clean. I would say it is a delicacy."

Derek Quann, the manager of the forest restoration project for Parks Canada, said the number of moose taken each year depends on the size of the local population and the health of the forest.

Thirty-seven moose were taken the first year and 50 last year. Quann said there will be a hunt next year but the number of moose culled has yet to be determined.

Meanwhile, Paul said contributions of Mi'kmaq hunters over the last few years "is the biggest dent that could be put against child poverty rates."

About the Author

Joan Weeks

Reporter

Joan Weeks has been a reporter with CBC in Sydney for over a decade. Many of her stories are investigative with a focus on government spending and accountability, as well as health and economic issues important to Cape Breton.