Nova Scotia

Cape Breton moose cull needed for a healthy ecosystem, co-ordinator says

The man co-ordinating a Mi'kmaq moose cull on North Mountain in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park is disputing a local hunter's assessment that the moose population was badly hurt by heavy snow last winter.

Clifford Paul of Unama'ki Institute says 'hyperabundance' of moose upsets the natural balance

Parks Canada says a moose cull is needed in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. (Parks Canada)

The man co-ordinating a Mi'kmaq moose cull on North Mountain in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park is disputing a local hunter's assessment that the moose population was badly hurt by heavy snow last winter. 

Clifford Paul of the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources says just because the hunter has seen few moose in his area, it doesn't mean the population has diminished.

He said the hot weather, which came late to Cape Breton this year, kept moose deep in the woods during hunting season.

"On a hot, hot day, you're not going to see many moose because they're laying low," he said.

"I was up there in September and we found moose. We searched for them and we found them. So yes, they're there. You just have to seek them out and work harder to find them."

Paul said both aboriginal hunters and Parks Canada have identified a "hyperabundance" of moose.

He said the cull is important for the health of the whole ecosystem on North Mountain, which Parks Canada has been trying to reforest in the wake of the spruce budworm problem decades ago.

'Eating themselves out of house and home'

"It's not all about hunting," Paul says. "It's about the moose who are causing major damage to the ecosystem by not allowing the regeneration of the next natural succession-type thing, where trees are supposed to be grown.

Clifford Paul, co-ordinator of the moose management initiative at the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources, says population numbers were not badly hurt this year. (Weldon Bona, Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources)

"The moose are interfering with that, in essence, eating themselves out of house and home."

Earlier this week, hunter Dennis Day from Dingwall said the cull wasn't necessary as heavy snow in the park last winter took a severe toll on the moose population.

Paul agrees with Day that moose have been harder to find this year, but he believes that may not have had anything to do with last winter's snowfall.

"These moose have been in the Cape Breton Highlands for 70 years and they survived quite well with worse winters than the previous," he said. "Moose are designed to to survive harsh winters, especially this genetic stock."

Cull expected in November

In Alberta and other locations, Paul said, the wolf is the moose's natural predator. That is not the case in Cape Breton, a chief reason the population has grown so large, he said.

Ultimately, Paul said, the cull is not even all about the moose.

"[The Mi'kmaq] tend to see the health of an ecosystem. It's all about balance," he says.

"You have moose people making moose decisions, you have salmon people making salmon decisions, you have forestry people making forestry decisions, and there's no collaboration."

Paul said an ecosystem is naturally collaborative.

"It was natural for Parks Canada to look towards the Mi'kmaq people who identified the problem back in the early '90s, late '80s, but also have a holistic approach to management and stewardship."

The cull on North Mountain is expected to begin in November.

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