Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, Yukon gov't work to increase moose population

The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and the Yukon government are continuing a pilot project to boost moose populations in Southwest Yukon. Close to $175,000 is being spent over three years on a pilot project in the Alsek area.

Alsek moose population dropped 40% between 1998 and 2008

New survey results on the Alsek moose population look promising, according to government biologist Shawn Taylor. The results have not been released yet. (Environment Yukon)

A Yukon First Nation, concerned that moose populations may be in decline in southwest Yukon, has partnered with the territorial government to help the numbers recover. 

Steve Smith, chief of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, and an avid hunter, says it's getting harder to harvest a moose in his traditional territory.

He says the lack of moose in the region has forced some hunters, including himself, to look elsewhere. Last year, his family hunted in Kaska traditional territory.

'My family and myself, thankfully and very gratefully, we were allowed and given permission by the Kaska Nation to hunt,' on its territory, said Champage and Aishihik chief Steve Smith.   (Champagne and Aishihik First Nations)

"My family and myself, thankfully and very gratefully, we were allowed and given permission by the Kaska Nation to hunt," Smith said.

Environment Yukon survey numbers showed a 40 per cent drop in the Alsek moose population between 1998 and 2008.

Smith says the data, along with traditional knowledge from elders and citizens who say they're having unsuccessful hunts, has not made him very optimistic about the health of the Alsek population.

New survey results on the way

Shawn Taylor, a biologist with Environment Yukon, said new survey results will be out soon and officials are hopeful that the numbers have improved.

He says the decline in past years could be attributed to hunters who were able to get to moose pastures, miles from roads or trails, with all terrain vehicles.

'Since the early 80s, we've seen problems with machines being able to more easily access the back country and areas that in the past have been refuges for moose,' said Taylor. (submitted by Shawn Taylor)

"Since the early 80s, we've seen problems with machines being able to more easily access the back country," he said. 

Smith agrees that's been a problem. The First Nation has also banned harvesting cow moose as part of its Wildlife Act. Smith says that has been in place for more than 10 years. 

Also, the Yukon government started a pilot program last year to help with the Alsek moose recovery. This year they will contribute $50,000 to the First Nation as part of a three-year funding agreement, totaling $174,000.

No plans for a wolf cull 

Smith says despite the lower numbers of moose, the First Nation is not considering a wolf cull, as was done in the past to boost caribou populations. Smith says there are other options that might help bring up moose populations, such as helping trappers bring down the number of wolves on their traplines.

The First Nation is using this year's funding to hire a project co-ordinator to educate trappers in the Alsek area.

Smith also said that if moose numbers remain low, there could be a hunting moratorium in areas where moose are easy prey for hunters.

The two governments are also working on a harvest management strategy for the preservation of moose populations in the region.