Moose cull protesters block Cabot Trail into national park
Large dump truck blocked park wardens and staff near entrance to Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Protestors blocked part of the Cabot Trail leading into the Cape Breton Highlands National Park Saturday morning using a large dump truck with its trailer extended into the air, bearing a sign reading, "Dump the Cull."
About a half-dozen protesters stood next to the truck parked about two kilometres from the park gates. They were angered by the park-sanctioned moose cull, which began Nov. 8. Protesters only blocked park staff and let local traffic through.
"We feel the national park should be a sanctuary, not a slaughterhouse," said Dennis Day, an organizer of Friends of Cape Breton Moose.
In a release published Oct. 13, Parks Canada said 15 years of research shows the moose population to be about 1,800 and is believed to have hastened the rate of vegetation loss in the park's forests.
This is the second year the cull has happened. This year's cull could last until mid-December.
Protest ended by midday
Saturday's protest ended a few hours after it began, Day said. Police arrived mid-morning and told him he could be charged with obstructing a public highway and disobeying a peace officer.
Cpl. Jennifer Clarke with Nova Scotia RCMP said Sunday there was no aggression or violence when police arrived on scene.
'The costs are significant'
The cull is part of a four-year project called Bring Back the Boreal and is in partnership with the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources. Indigenous hunters with hunting treaty rights are assisting with the cull. This year's cull targets the same 20-square-kilometre area of North Mountain as last year.
Project manager Derek Quann said it cost about $292,000 to kill 37 moose in the 2015 cull. He said the cost depends on hunting techniques, how much time it takes, manpower, weather and if the moose stay in one area of the park or move around.
"The costs are significant, and so are the stakes of doing nothing," Quann said.
"It was part of the project that it will take successive years of population reductions to produce a lasting impact of depleting the density of moose in that small area in seeing some ecological response in the vegetation. It was fully expected."
Quann said last year's target was 40 moose. It's expected the same number will be hunted this year.
Moose used to be 'everywhere'
Last year's cull was delayed by several different groups of protestors. Some opposed Parks Canada's choices for moose population control, while others wanted the chance to hunt moose like the Indigenous hunters assisting in the cull.
"It's a very unpredictable aspect to be able to have a sense of what kind of opposition, especially on the ground, will be encountered," Quann said.
Day says this year all the protestors agree the moose population has been thinned by a run of harsh winters.
"It was like playing a video game when you used to go across North Mountain. You were dodging moose. You had to crawl, going the centre line, watch them coming out from everywhere," he said.