Nfld. & Labrador

Moose licences cut by nearly 2,500 but is that enough?

One well-known outdoorsman says the moose population is collapsing and government should have cut 10,000 licences.

Hunters want even fewer licences, but people hurt in moose collisions feel differently

A group representing hunters in Newfoundland and Labrador says the government doesn't have an accurate count of moose and could use drone technology to do that. (CBC News)

Some Newfoundland and Labrador hunters are warning that the provincial government didn't go far enough in reducing the number of moose licences it will issue this year.

The government announced Tuesday that 2,470 fewer licences will be awarded to resident hunters in 2018, largely because of concerns raised by outfitters and hunters.

Barry Fordham, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Hunters and Anglers, calls it "a good start," but not enough.

We are predicting we only have about five years left before this moose hunt is shut down.- Barry Fordham

Fordham said about 30,000 licences are still being issued and with a 60 per cent success rate, the moose population can't sustain that kind of pressure.

"We are predicting we only have about five years left before this moose hunt is shut down as we know it."

Barry Fordham, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Hunters and Anglers, says fewer moose calves are being born across North America. (CBC)

"I guess something is better than nothing, but by and large the amount they've reduced it by is very minimal," said Dwight Blackwood, editor of Newfoundland Sportsman magazine. He thinks the number should have been reduced by 10,000.

"We don't want the moose population to become extinct, and if this trend continues it will become extinct."

Both men are concerned that official estimates of the moose population — at 110,000 — are inflated by tens of thousands, and that it is hard to get a good count because of cuts to science programs.

"I don't believe myself that government has any real science," said Fordham, who applauded the move to increase aerial surveys from five to seven a year.

Dwight Blackwood is editor of Newfoundland Sportsman. He says the government's estimate of the moose population is too high. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

But he said investing in drone technology might be a better way of getting a more accurate picture of the moose population. 

Moose are on a decline across North America, he said, because fewer calves are being born. There have also been warnings from hunters that moose are being killed by predators such as coyotes and wolves.

Who has the government's ear?

Fordham and Blackwood said government is under pressure from the Save Our People Action Committee (SOPAC) which represents people injured or killed in moose-vehicle collisions on the highway.

The founder of that group, Eugene Nippard, told CBC Radio's CrossTalk on Thursday that he will continue to lobby for more moose to be killed in the annual hunt.

"Last summer we were averaging three accidents a day ... and we were averaging two fatalities a year," Nippard said.

"There shouldn't be any reduction unless the government is going to do something to protect us."

People injured or killed in accidents involving moose along Newfoundland and Labrador highways have lobbied for more licences to be issued. (CBC)

The government is not reducing licences in hunting zones along the Trans-Canada — from St. John's to Clarenville and from Gander to Grand Falls — but Nippard said more fencing is needed along the highway to keep moose off.

"My friends and my family are more important to me than a damn moose."

Dwight Blackwood said it's getting more unusual to spot a moose on the side of the highway, even on the Northern Peninsula where moose were a hazard.

"I actually counted 58 in a 15-kilometre stretch ... eight or nine years ago," he said. "Now you go up there you are lucky to see one."

The government, meanwhile, has said it is trying to strike a balanced approach to satisfy hunters and outfitters, and drivers concerned about safety.

March 29 is the deadline to apply for a big game licence.


Marilyn Boone is a retired journalist who worked for CBC News in St. John's.

With files from Here & Now and CrossTalk