Nfld. & Labrador

Moose collisions drop sharply, while hunting advocate raises alarm about population

A hunter says the province's moose population is in "serious trouble." A cabinet minister says the claim is dead wrong.
Moose-vehicle collisions have been a perennial problem in Newfoundland and Labrador for many years. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The number of moose-vehicle collisions in Newfoundland and Labrador has dropped significantly this year, while the leader of a hunting group is raising alarms about what he calls a steep drop in the moose population. 

According to data released Thursday by the Department of Transportation and Works, the average number of moose-vehicle collisions has dropped from nearly 50 per month in 2016 and 2017 to about 22 in 2018.

The department's data covers all of 2016 and 2017, and the period through Sept. 5, 2018.

Meanwhile, Barry Fordham, president of the Newfoundland Association of Hunters and Anglers, believes the province's moose population is "in serious trouble" in part because there are too many hunters in the woods. 

"If something's not done about it, [the moose hunt] could be over as we know it."

Gerry Byrne, the province's Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources, says fewer moose on the road is a sign of success, given government's recent efforts to create moose management areas along the Trans-Canada Highway in particularly troublesome areas.

"That's a good thing," he said.

Issue fewer hunting licences, says hunter

Fordham wants government to start issuing fewer hunting licences, and says its efforts to reduce the moose population in response to high numbers of accidents might now be going too far.

"They've done their job. The moose population has declined," he said.

Barry Fordham, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Hunters and Anglers, says the province's moose population is in trouble. (CBC)

With a success rate of about 60 per cent on the 30,000 moose licences issued this year and last year, Fordham said he's worried the population will collapse.

"For God's sake, do something before it's too late."

He said he's especially concerned because he doesn't believe government has an accurate count of the province's moose population, pointing out that he gets different numbers — ranging from 110,000 to 114,000 — depending on which government body or office he talks to.

He wants government to issue at least 5,000 fewer licences until it has a better grasp of the numbers.

"We want government to peel back the number of licences until they get an official study put out that tells what the moose population actually is, and then set the licences in accordance with that," he said. "So we can have a sustainable hunt for not only ourselves but our kids and their kids to come."

Moose population is just fine, says Byrne

Byrne said there is no evidence to support claims that the moose population is struggling.

"Neither the current nor the historical evidence supports that position," he said.

Fewer moose on the road? That's the idea, says Gerry Byrne. (Cal Tobin/CBC)

He said it makes perfect sense that numbers would fluctuate because that's what population numbers do.

"There's always population regeneration. So yes, there will be variations from year to year."

As for concerns the population won't recover from the annual hunt, Byrne said nature will take care of that.

"There's an amazing thing that happens every year: moose calve."

And his numbers indicate they're doing so at a sustainable rate, he said.

He said though he respects Fordham's opinion and position, he said the group he represents is not an official organization or non-profit with an established membership and annual general meeting representing the province's hunters.

"Unfortunately, there is no such true organization."

Contacted by CBC, Fordham said "that is true" when asked to respond to Byrne's statements about his group's status, but added the organization "holds more ground than you might think." 

He added, "That does not mean I am entitled to have my own opinion or that this group cannot have its own opinion." 

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Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated numbers for moose-vehicle collisions for 2016, 2017, and 2018, but did not indicate that the figures were per month.
    Nov 22, 2018 3:12 PM NT

With files from On The Go

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