The Northwestern Ontario Sportsmen's Alliance is worried about a sharp decline in the northern Minnesota moose population — a decline that includes a 35 per cent drop in just one year.
But the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources says there's no need to be alarmed, despite Minnesota’s recent decision to cancel its annual moose hunt. Surveys in the northwest show moose populations are relatively stable in this part of the province, according to the ministry.
"We do see a bit of a mix across the region in terms of population trends," said MNR regional wildlife biologist Brad Allison. "Some are increasing, some [are] stable, and some are decreasing through time."
But John Kaplanis, executive director of the Northwestern Ontario Sportsmen's Alliance, said the MNR’s data collection methods are inadequate.
"The only research the ministry really does right now is moose aerial inventory to count moose," he said. "And even that has suffered a lot of financial cutbacks."
Kaplanis said the accuracy of that information is debatable.
"I think the ministry needs to be careful in making broad statements and saying our moose population is stable, when in fact we really are not keeping up with a lot of research and data gathering in the field."
The only other data collection method employed by the ministry is hunter postcard surveys following the annual moose hunt in the fall.
Kaplanis said he advocates collaboration between Minnesota and Ontario on moose population trends.
"We want to propose to the Ministry of Natural Resources that we put together a small delegation of stakeholder representatives, including MNR biologists, and go down to Minnesota and talk to their biology staff and learn more about what they are doing to research their moose population problems," he said.
"Perhaps Ontario can take something away from what Minnesota is doing right now and apply it to how we manage moose here in the province and perhaps stave off any problems in the future."
'Unfortunate for hunters'
But Allison says there are no plans for that at this time.
"We can consider changes to harvest management strategies down the road if the need were to happen," Allison said. "If that were to occur … the public would be consulted on any such options."
Kaplanis said Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources didn't really have any other choice when it decided to ban the moose hunt.
"It's unfortunate for hunters that they won't be able to hunt moose next year," he said. "However, hunters understand the principles of conservation. When a population drops below a certain level, to where it can't sustain itself, there is no choice and … hunters accept that."
There are a number of theories as to why the moose populations in Minnesota are declining so rapidly. It could be the result of climate change or increased deer populations that are bringing more predators.