Nova Scotia

Latest moose count in Cape Breton raises concerns for hunters

The Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters is raising the alarm over the declining moose population in Cape Breton.

Province estimates number of moose in all of Cape Breton down to 1,300

Every June, the Nova Scotia government holds a lottery and awards 345 winners a moose hunting licence for the Cape Breton highlands. (Parks Canada)

The Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters is raising the alarm over the latest moose count in Cape Breton.

Previous estimates put the moose population at about 4,700 in 2004. This spring, the provincial Department of Lands and Forestry found there were a total of 1,300 moose in all of Cape Breton.

The province is set to hold its annual lottery for moose hunting licences later this month.

Mike Pollard, president of the hunters' federation, said the population decline means those lucky enough to get a licence are less likely to bag a moose this year.

'Going to have to hunt hard'

"You're not going to see the number of moose," he said.

"You're not going to see them in proximity of roads. You're not going to see them in the little swale areas. You're going to have to hunt, and you're going to have to hunt hard, and you're still going to end up with a 30 per cent success rate."

The latest survey was done by the province, in conjunction with the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs and Parks Canada.

It comes at the end of a five-year Parks Canada plan to restore habitat it said was being destroyed by an abundant moose population.

Fenced areas, like this one in Newfoundland, have been built in Cape Breton Highlands National Park to keep moose away from young trees. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

The plan included tree planting, measures to keep moose away from trees, and a cull in a small part of the national park that resulted in 138 moose being harvested.

According to provincial numbers, the success rate in the hunt outside the park has dropped steadily from 80 per cent to 66 per cent over the same five-year period.

Pollard said hunters are concerned that the hunt outside the park might not be sustainable if moose numbers continue to drop.

He also said the province used to hold its lottery for moose licences in public, but that has changed.

Under the Wula Na Kinu (This Is Who We Are) process, harvester cards are issued to those with an ancestral connection to a recognized Mi'kmaq family name, and who are accepted by the Mi'kmaq Nation. (Submitted by Jason Dain)

Pollard said the draw won't be livestreamed because some hunters who got licences complained they were being hassled by hunting guides looking for business.

"In a couple of years, it's come to the point of almost being harassed, and so those folks have complained to the government that because they're allowing everybody to know who's got moose licences ahead of time, it's causing a fair amount of duress trying to make their own arrangements for going down for a hunt," he said.

The federation is hoping to meet with provincial officials to see if it can have some observers present at the draw.

Pollard said he's not concerned that the government is doing something questionable with the lottery. He said the federation simply wants to be able to observe so it can tell its members the lottery is being run properly.

Second survey planned

In an email, the Department of Lands and Forestry said the "apparent" moose decline is based on a single survey.

It said the density in Cape Breton is consistent with hunted populations elsewhere and the moose hunt will be re-evaluated next year after a second count.

The province also said the lottery is not being livestreamed this year due to staffing vacancy.


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


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