Nova Scotia

Checkpoints considered for Cape Breton fall moose hunt

The checkpoints are one idea being looked at to keep a more accurate count of the moose population in the Cape Breton Highlands.

Mi'kmaq, government officials say checkpoints would provide more accurate number of animals killed

Moose in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. (Parks Canada)

Moose hunters in the Cape Breton Highlands may have to pass through checkpoints next season in an effort to keep a more accurate population count.

A count done last winter in the area from Hunter's Mountain to Meat Cove, and a small area near Lake Ainslie, found about 1,300 moose.

The survey was a joint effort between the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs, the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry, and Parks Canada.

The results are down substantially from an estimated 4,700 moose in 2004.

At that time, the number was considered too high and led to damaged forest habitat.

Current moose population considered sustainable

The current moose population, although an estimate, is considered sustainable, said Michael Boudreau, the acting manager of sustainable wildlife use with the Department of Lands and Forestry.

"It's certainly in the ballpark for other jurisdictions, when you look at moose per square kilometre," he said.

Chief Rod Googoo of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs wants to ensure the number remains sustainable.

He said he's been pushing for checkpoints to get a more accurate picture of how many animals are being killed in the fall, both by licensed hunters and Mi'kmaq harvesters.

Poaching problems

"Nobody's keeping track," said Googoo, adding that he believes poaching is a growing problem.

But he said without accurate numbers of legally harvested animals, there's no way to assess the impact of poaching.

Boudreau said a checkpoint system should be fairly easy to put in place in the Highlands.

"The unique thing about the Highlands, you have limited access points to it, " he said. "So, as harvesters come back from their harvest, we can target these areas and survey the hunters that are coming off the mountain."

Boudreau said such a system used to be in place during the hunt in the past, but stopped being done.

A moose forages in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. (Parks Canada)

According to a community notice issued May 23 by the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs, moose licences issued by the province will remain the same this year, but could be reduced if numbers continue to drop. It also said that any Mi'kmaq restrictions on the food harvest would be a last resort.

Googoo has also urged the province to tighten up the regulations around bear licences. He said some bear hunters are abusing their licences by going to the Highlands and hunting moose instead.

The notice also said there must be a firm effort to stop Mi'kmaq hunters from enabling non-native hunters by taking them out to claim their moose.

"Our people have to stop doing that," said Googoo.

A moose management group, made up of provincial, Parks Canada and Mi'kmaq officials, will continue to meet to discuss the proposed changes.

Googoo and Boudreau said the checkpoints could be in place for the 2019 fall hunt.


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