Hunters in many areas of northern Ontario will have a harder time getting an adult moose tags for the upcoming moose-hunting season.

The province has announced it will reduce the adult moose tags it makes available in 2014 by about 18 per cent overall. The reductions are in response to declining moose populations in northern Ontario, which were noted by provincial biologists during this winter's annual aerial surveys.

The largest tag reductions will occur in areas with the largest declines. In the Dryden and Thunder Bay areas, 88% fewer tags will be issued this year.

"While this is not encouraging news for moose hunters, it does present the opportunity to re-evaluate how we share in the management of the moose resource,” said John Kaplanis, executive director, Northwestern Ontario Sportsmen’s Alliance.

“We would like to work co-operatively with the Ministry of Natural Resources to investigate this trend and subsequently make changes to manage moose, with confidence that this declining trend can be turned around."

Ontario’s moose population has remained relatively stable over the past decade. However, most areas of northeastern Ontario — and the more accessible parts of northwestern Ontario — have recently been showing signs of decline.

"Ontario and its partners have agreed that we must act now to secure the future of moose in this province,” said Natural Resources Minister David Orazietti.

“Moose are not only important to Ontario’s economy, particularly in northern communities, but they are also vital to our province’s biodiversity."

The ministry reports many factors can contribute to population shifts, such as harvest, predation, parasites, habitat condition and low calf numbers.

Ontario's moose draw opens on April 22, 2014.

For more information about the moose tags available, see the 2014 Hunting Summary Regulations at ontario.ca/hunting.

Moose survey results by region

The Ministry of Natural Resources conducts moose aerial inventory surveys each year to track trends in the population. Moose population trends are also assessed through hunter surveys each fall.

Specifically, this winter's surveys showed the following changes:

Northwest: Aerial surveys were flown in 14 of the 30 wildlife management units. Moose populations are estimated to be stable in five, stable-to-decreasing in three, and decreasing in five. Notable decreases were seen in wildlife management units 5 and 8 in Dryden District, 14 in Nipigon District, 13 in Thunder Bay District and 9B and 11A in Fort Frances District.

Northeast: Aerial surveys were flown in seven of the 27 wildlife management units. Moose populations are estimated to be stable in one and decreasing in six. Decreases were seen in wildlife management units 23 in Hearst District, 28 in Kirkland Lake District, 32 in Wawa District, 35 and 36 in Sault Ste. Marie District and 41 in North Bay District, whereas the population is stable for 39 in Sudbury District.

Southern: Aerial surveys were flown in four of the 15 wildlife management units. Moose populations are estimated to be stable to increasing in all wildlife management units surveyed.

Factors such as harvest, predation, parasites, habitat condition and low calf numbers can all contribute to shifts in moose population. There have also been concerns about the health of moose populations in areas close to Ontario, such as Minnesota and Manitoba. Ontario will continue to monitor the moose population and collaborate with the hunting community to ensure moose populations are sustainable.

Source: news.ontario.ca