Nova Scotia

Cape Breton moose hunt to go ahead as population count increases

The Nova Scotia government is going ahead with its annual lottery for moose hunting licences after the latest survey found Cape Breton moose numbers have rebounded from a low of 1,300 last year.

Hunters looking forward to fall as new survey shows moose numbers increased substantially over last year

Nova Scotia's annual moose hunting licence lottery is going ahead after the latest survey found Cape Breton moose numbers have rebounded from a low of 1,300 last year. (CBC)

Nova Scotia Lands and Forestry is going ahead with its annual lottery for moose hunting licences after a survey found the Cape Breton moose population has rebounded from last year.

Mike Pollard, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters, said the new survey results are good news for hunters and for the health of the moose.

"As long as they can control the poaching and illegal hunting and they can get a good handle on their harvest by the Indigenous people, then they'll be able to manage this herd very, very well," he said.

For more than five years, the province has limited the number of licences issued for the hunt in Cape Breton to 345 and holds an annual lottery to determine who gets a licence.

According to Lands and Forestry, the moose population in all of Cape Breton Island was about 4,700 in 2004. Last year, the province pegged that number at 1,300.

The department declined to release the results of this year's survey, but said in an email the "Cape Breton moose population remains healthy, which indicates a sustainable hunt can be conducted."

Survey results an anomaly?

Pollard said the latest survey found between 2,200 and 2,300 moose in Cape Breton.

"They did extra surveying and it looks like the herd rebounded or was always at that level and just that maybe last year's survey was an anomaly," he said.

Hunters have a direct interest in ensuring the herd remains healthy for years to come, Pollard said.

"As long as we can have a lottery hunt, the number of licences is controlled and that we have a sustainable population, then we're fine with the present situation."

Last year, the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Chiefs urged the province to set up checkpoints in Cape Breton to get a better handle on hunting activity.

We'koqma'q Chief Rod Googoo, the assembly's lead on lands, wildlife and forestry, said in a statement that Mi'kmaw volunteers worked at checkpoints alongside provincial representatives gathering samples and data from Mi'kmaw harvesters to help gain a better understanding of the health of the moose population.

"In fact, we are already in discussion with the province on continuing these checkpoints for the 2020 season," Googoo said.

Pollard said wildlife officials were more visible than he's ever seen.

"The presence of the enforcement officers down there was well received by the hunting community, because we want them to be there," Pollard said. "We want them to make sure that there's not people hunting illegally."

Hunting is usually allowed only outside Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Inverness and Victoria counties.

The moose population was blamed for killing off trees in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, which led to a pilot program to cull some of the animals over the last five years. (Parks Canada)

However, over the last five years, Parks Canada has reduced the number of moose in the park through a cull of 138 animals in an effort to reduce damage to the boreal forest.

Provincial statistics show the moose hunt success rate has steadily dropped from a high of about 80 per cent six years ago to a low last year of 61 per cent.

Pollard said the increased moose population should mean a more successful hunt this fall.

Hunters with an up-to-date wildlife resources card can enter the lottery for a moose licence online or by calling 1-900-565-3337.

The draw opens May 11 and closes June 8 just before midnight. The draw takes place June 15.


  • The original version of this story indicated that Mi'kmaw checkpoints had not been set up last year. In fact, they were set up.
    May 11, 2020 1:56 PM AT

About the Author

Tom Ayers


Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He has spent the last 16 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at