North

Declines in moose population a concern for Quebec Cree

The Quebec Cree Nation is in deep discussions and consultations both internally, with Quebec and with mayors from surrounding non-Cree towns, about how to manage and protect one of its most precious and emblematic resources — the moose. 

Numbers down 35 per cent; sport hunt in Zone 17 in the balance

Cree tallymen, or land stewards, have been voicing concerns about declining moose populations in the area for several years and have been asking the province to carry out a population count, said Cree Grand Chief Mandy Gull-Masty. (Vince Crichton)

The Quebec Cree Nation is in deep discussions and consultations both internally, with Quebec and with mayors from surrounding non-Cree towns, about how to manage and protect one of its most precious and emblematic resources — the moose. 

An aerial survey of the moose population in Zone 17 and the southern part of Zone 22 carried out in 2021, shows a 35 per cent decline in moose populations, a moderate and concerning decline, says Cree Grand Chief Mandy Gull-Masty. 

Zone 17 includes the traplines of Cree communities of Oujé-Bougoumou, Waskaganish and Waswanipi, as well as the non-Cree towns of Chibougamau, Chapais, Matagani and Lebel-sur-Quevillion. 

In terms of who we are as a Cree Nation, any kind of decline is of concern.- Mandy Gull-Masty, Cree Grand Chief 

"In terms of who we are as a Cree Nation, any kind of decline is of concern," said Gull-Masty, whose family trapline is in Zone 17, near the Cree community of Waswanipi.

Last count in 2009

Cree tallymen, or land stewards, have been voicing concerns about declining moose populations in the area for several years and have been asking the province to carry out a population count, said Gull-Masty. The last population count was in 2009.

"It was taking us longer to hunt moose. We were seeing less moose. We were seeing less female moose. We were seeing more bull moose. So it has been apparent for those people that are living traditionally on the land," said Gull-Masty.

After years of asking, the 2021 survey was carried out jointly by the Cree Nation and Quebec's Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs. 

Gull-Masty said the Cree are open to finding a way to accommodate non-Cree hunters and are also working with local mayors from the surrounding non-Indigenous towns.  (Jarred Gull)

As a result of the population decline, the maximum level of harvest for 2022 has been set at 104 moose.

That is below a guaranteed Cree harvest of 158 moose set out in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement signed by the Cree in 1975.

This means the sport hunt for this coming fall is effectively shut down, unless an accommodation for non-Indigenous hunters is made. 

Active consultations with Cree hunters

Active consultations are happening at the moment with Cree tallymen, said Gull-Masty, as well as local Cree leaders, and the Cree Trappers Association over whether an allocation can be provided to the sport hunt for the 2022 season. 

Zone 17 includes the Cree communities of Waskaganish, Waswanipi et Oujé-Bougoumou and non-Cree municipalities of Matagami, Lebel-sur-Quévillon, Chapais et Chibougamau. (Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs)

"It is always going to be the primary goal of the Cree Nation government to protect the way of life and the rights of our members to continue practicing hunting, fishing and trapping, as outlined in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement," said Gull-Masty. 

However, Gull-Masty said the Cree are open to finding a way to accommodate non-Cree hunters and are also working with local mayors from the surrounding non-Indigenous towns. 

That is something the mayor of Chibougamau said she appreciates. 

Manon Cyr is the mayor of the non-Cree town of Chibougamau. (Manon Cyr/Facebook)

"The objective of everyone is to work together ... to assure we respect the JBNQA, but also allow a certain sport hunt," said Manon Cyr in an interview with Radio-Canada in January.

"We continue our discussions with our Cree neighbours," said Cyr.

The sport hunt is only one part of what has led to the population decline, said Gull-Masty. 

"It's a multitude of things ranging from forestry activities, industrial development, overharvesting, poaching. So we cannot only look at one angle on the file," said Gull-Masty.

The Cree will be submitting recommendations to the provincial government in the weeks or months ahead on how to manage and protect the herd, said Gull-Masty. 

And the Cree hope to have a clear sense of whether and what kind of accommodation can be made for a sport hunt in Zone 17 before the summer.

now