Manitoba wildlife officers seek leads in illegal moose hunting cases

Manitoba natural resources officers have turned to social media with new photos of illegal moose hunting, including some images of a slain cow moose and its fetuses, in the hopes of getting leads and information.

Officers released graphic photos of moose remains along highways in province's northwest

Under Manitoba's hunting rules, no one can hunt moose or other animals from, across or along any provincial road or trunk highway. (CBC)

Manitoba natural resources officers have turned to social media with new photos of illegal moose hunting in the hopes of getting leads and information in those cases.

The officers posted graphic photos last week of moose remains that were found in hunt-free zones along highways in the province's northwest region, including images of a slain cow moose and its fetuses.

"Reportedly, we've had more than 15 illegal kills in one winter. We don't know who did it," said Jack Harrigan, manager of compliance and field services with Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship.

Under the province's hunting rules, no hunter can discharge a firearm or bow from, across or along any provincial road or trunk highway, including the road allowance.

"You can't hunt from a road, it's illegal," Harrigan said.

"Hunting from a road is dangerous at any time. It also puts more of a strain on the moose population."

He noted that there have been two convictions this winter involving people hunting illegally along roadways in the northwest region. In both cases, the hunters were fined.

As for the latest cases, Harrigan said resource officers are hoping that posting photos on Facebook would help with their investigations.

'We've got a moose crisis'

The Manitoba Wildlife Federation says illegal moose hunting is a huge problem in the province, especially when it involves cow moose and their young.

"We've got a moose crisis here now in Manitoba. It's just disheartening to see fetuses in the gut pile — you know, like, those are moose that we need to grow up," said Rob Olson, the federation's managing director.

"We can't keep killing these female moose; we're not going to have any left for anybody."

Part of the problem, Olson said, is that it can be very difficult to catch poachers because they often operate late at night.

"Those highways are deserted in the middle of the night," he said.

"You don't just process a moose quickly, so how do you get away with that without a car passing by and reporting you? Well, you do it at two in the morning."

When asked how difficult it can be to investigate illegal moose hunting cases, Harrigan replied, "Some of them are going to be a long shot. On the other hand, sometimes the stars align and you're successful."

Group wants plan to save moose numbers

Olson said illegal hunting is not the only problem. Unrestricted hunting by First Nations members is also threatening moose numbers, he said.

Olson wants the provincial government to work with Manitoba First Nations, who have special hunting rights, to come up with a plan to protect the moose population.

"We have to put the moose first. The moose have to be in the middle of the table and be the most important thing, and we've got to realize that it's a precious resource," he said.

"If we all want to have access to that going forward, we're all going to have to give a little."

He said First Nations hunters in Saskatchewan have agreed to rules to help save moose numbers there.

With files from the CBC's Susan Magas