Nova Scotia

Spot an endangered mainland moose? Here's why you should report it

The Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq is urging people to report mainland moose sightings and illegal poachings after new data suggests there could be fewer than 100 left.

There could be fewer than 100 mainland moose remaining in Nova Scotia

The mainland moose was declared an endangered species in Nova Scotia in 2003. (Department of Natural Resources)

The Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq hopes to recruit more people to help save struggling mainland moose populations in Nova Scotia.

Aerial survey results recently obtained by CBC News suggest there could be fewer than 100 mainland moose left in the province.

Mainland moose are native to Nova Scotia, and they're different from the ones found on Cape Breton Island. Those ones were introduced from Alberta in the 1940s and are far more abundant.

In the early 1900s, thousands of mainland moose roamed Nova Scotia. By the 1930s, there were only around 3,200 left, a number that fell to 1,000 by the early 2000s.

It is illegal to hunt mainland moose, which were listed as endangered in 2003.

An image of a mainland moose captured during an aerial survey of a section of Nova Scotia in 2018. (Submitted by Lands and Forestry)

Anthony King, the forestry stewardship officer with the Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq, said there's a program that helps the Department of Lands and Forestry track moose populations and advise future forestry management decisions. Participants in the mainland moose guardian program can report sightings of moose and poachers.

"There's so many isolated pockets of moose and without coming together as a community, it's going to be a lot harder to accomplish anything," King told CBC's Information Morning.

Mainland moose populations are dwindling thanks to loss of habitat, disease and poaching.

What to report

When calling in to report a mainland moose sighting, King said it would be helpful to include any details about the apparent health of the animal — loss of fur can be an indicator of poor health — as well as its sex and age. Females and young moose don't have antlers, while adult male moose do. The size of a moose is indicative of its age.

But don't get too close, he warned, adding that a tip about a moose is helpful even if they don't have these details.

"I've personally been charged by moose in Cape Breton and it's not a pleasant experience," said King.

Mainland moose guardians can also report moose tracks and moose feces.

The confederacy recently released a video about the program that was screened at Cineplex theatres throughout the month of May.

The program officially started in October 2018 with the creation of a Facebook group where people can share moose sightings and signs of moose.

Where to find them

King said some of the biggest pockets of mainland moose are in the Cobequid Mountains near Wentworth Valley and in the Tobeatic Wilderness Area in southwest Nova Scotia.

"Some of those areas are actually wilderness areas, so they are kind of like a refuge for the species and they can be protected in there," he said.

"That being said, they aren't 100 per cent protected because there is still a lot of poaching that goes on."

How the forestry industry can help, hurt moose

He said when roads are built for forestry operations, it creates easy access for poachers to get in and illegally harvest moose.

But King added that forestry operations actually do benefit moose in some ways. Once the trees begin regenerating, the new hardwood trees provide a food source for them.

As part of the moose guardian program, King said the confederacy is also distributing high-visibility bumper stickers, which list hotlines for calling in moose sightings or for reporting poachers.

The Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq is distributing bumper stickers to raise awareness for the campaign. (The Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq)

King noted that moose have been an important part of Mi'kmaw culture for thousands of years.

"Traditionally, it's been used for clothing, tools, shelter, food and crafts," he said. 

"And other than fish, it used to be the most abundant food source for the Mi'kmaq in mainland Nova Scotia and throughout the province."

With files from Information Morning Nova Scotia