The Wildlands League is calling on the provincial government to put an end to the moose calf hunt in Ontario, says Dave Pearce, the forest conservation manager for the environmental organization.

Studies show a 20 per cent decline in the moose population over the last decade.

"The future of the moose population is in jeopardy," said Pearce, adding that in almost half the wildlife management units in the province, there are not enough calves to maintain a stable herd.

The call for the end of the annual fall calf hunt is an attempt to protect those animals most likely to survive to adulthood and go on to reproduce.

Dave Pearce Wildlands League

Dave Pearce, forest conservation manager for the Wildlands League, says the future of Ontario's moose population "is in jeopardy." (Dave Pearce/Wildlands League)

"When the calf hunt was brought in it was thought that it wouldn't make a big difference because most calves die in their first year anyway, killed by other factors and predators but most of those deaths happened in the spring, in their first months of life. By the time they've survived to hunting season, they're actually the ones that are most likely to pull through," he said.

"They are the future of the population."

Broad support for end of calf hunt

There is broad support, from a variety of stakeholders, for a ban on hunting the younger animals, he said.

"We did a survey last summer, even hunters admit that hunting calves in a declining population doesn't make any sense, even with a restricted season. I think there's some broad support for ending the calf hunt and taking some of the pressure off and seeing how populations rebound," said Pearce.

The Wildlands League is also asking the government to establish moose refuge areas, which would not be accessible by road, and would like to see more money spent researching issues which might be affecting moose population numbers including climate change, loss of habitat and reproductive problems.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry could announce, as early as March, its decision on numbers for next fall's moose hunt.