British Columbia

Moose hunt closed in Cariboo areas following wildfires

Parts of the Cariboo will be closed to moose hunting this season after the area was ravaged by wildfire this summer.

Closures in effect from Oct. 15 to 31 and Nov. 1 to 15

The province has restricted motor vehicle use and banned moose hunting in parts of the Cariboo region north of Highway 20. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Parts of the Cariboo will be closed to moose hunting this season after the area was ravaged by wildfire this summer.

The closures affect the area directly north of Highway 20, and west of Williams Lake and Quesnel in B.C.'s Interior. 

The areas affected were damaged by the Chilcotin Plateau fire and will be closed to moose hunting from Oct. 15 to 31, and Nov. 1 to 15.

The Cariboo fire centre faced a total of 271 fires that burned an estimated 871,036 hectares of land during what forestry minister Doug Donaldson called the "unprecedented fire season" of 2017.

"With moose populations already declining in this management zone, we need to take steps now to protect wildlife and ensure healthy moose populations in the future," said Donaldson.

'Good starting point'

The Cariboo Plateau contains "high-quality moose habitat," which leaders of the Tsilhqot'in and Nazko First Nations have been asking to have closed to hunters since August.

Chief Stewart Alec of the Nazko First Nation said he's pleased with the closure but would like to see the government work closer with the First Nations in the area on wildlife management issues.

"We'd like to have talks with them but for now it's a good starting point," he said.

Black smoke from the fire fills the horizon on Highway 20, a vital link for many small, remote communities in B.C.'s Chilcotin region. (Ron Svisdahl)

Hunting moose in the region is already managed by limited entry, which means the province randomly awards a predetermined number of licences.

Last week, the province banned motor vehicles for the purpose of licensed hunting within the Chilcotin Plateau and Hanceville-Riske Creek.

A release from the ministry said the action was to protect big game wildlife from over hunting as fires made it possible for hunters to access areas on a vehicle that were previously only accessible by foot.

The province also said the fires reduced vegetation significantly, making it easier for hunters to sight big game.

First Nations are exempt from the motor vehicle restrictions, but most are not hunting in the area right now, according to Alec.

The government said it is reviewing the impact fires have had on other areas of the province and may impose further restrictions as needed.