Thunder Bay

Moose tags in Thunder Bay district cut again by OMNRF

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has released its 2018 moose tag allocations, and the news is not good for some hunters in the northwest.

Tags in Wildlife Management Unit 13 were cut nearly in half, from 94 in 2017, to 48 this fall.

The Ontario government is going to rethink how its managing moose. The province says it's setting up an advisory committee to review how tag quotas are developed, how hunters apply for tags and the current allocation process. (CBC)

There are more cuts to moose tags coming in parts of the northwest.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has released its 2018 moose tag allocations.

In Wildlife Management Unit 13, located in the Thunder Bay district, the total adult moose tags were cut nearly in half.

In 2017 there were 94 gun tags available, with 32 for bulls and 62 for cows. In 2018, that number is cut to just 48 gun tags, with 22 for bulls and 26 for cows.

For bow hunters in WMU 13, the news is no better. Available tags have gone from 43 in 2017 (40 cow, 3 bull), to 11 in 2018 (10 cow, 1 bull).

Keith Munro is a wildlife biologist with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

He says the present year to year moose management style by the OMNRF in the northwest may be having a negative impact.

"There is a big difference in management styles between northeastern and northwestern Ontario," said Munro. "In northeastern Ontario they tend to use multi-year management plans. So they will make a change, they will wait several years, see the impacts, and then decide whether they need to make another change. In the northwestern region, they tend to do more changes each year."

Munro said northeastern and southern regions of Ontario are pretty much status quo with moose tag allocations this year, with some small increases.

In contrast, he said the northwest region has seen some significant decreases.

"In some of the WMU's these are somewhat positive as they address hunter concerns," he said, "but in other WMU's they are less optimal."

Munro said cuts in WMU 13 have been due to a 19 per cent reduction in the moose population in the area. However he said management actions have recently been focused on increasing pressure on cow moose, to address some imbalance in the sex ratio between bulls and cows. A move he said the OFAH is not sold on.

"We have some concerns that this - in part - contributes to the decrease, because the decrease in the population has largely been because of fewer cows being present," Munro said.

Keith Munro, a wildlife biologist with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. (OFAH)

In WMU 21A, a huge unit that lies roughly between Nipigon and Longlac, the cow gun tag allocation has been cut nearly in half, from 943 in 2017, to 550 in 2018.

"21A has always been criticized for having really high cow tag numbers," said Munro. "It was sort of creating phantom hunting opportunities as you could get a cow tag, but you were probably not going to harvest a moose."

Munro said stakeholder input from the OFAH and others led to the cut.

He said the OFAH and OMNRF also agree that there are definitely WMU's with very small moose populations, well below their targeted levels and said the OFAH would continue to push for frequent aerial inventories to assess the size of the population.

Munro added mandatory moose harvest reporting, which is coming in 2019, is also important. He said getting the best estimates for the size of the moose population, as well as how hunters are harvesting that population is key.

"With that information we can effectively have a moose hunt and balance conservation at the same time," said Munro. "The OFAH position is always conservation first, but if there is the opportunity for a sustainable hunt, we want to make sure those opportunities are available."

In an email, the OMNRF's communications specialist Jolanta Kowalski supplied this statement about the 2018 moose tag allocation:

"The number of moose tags made available to hunters is determined annually and takes into account the results of annual aerial surveys. WMU 13 was flown this year and the results of that survey showed a significant decline."

"Quotas for resident hunters are developed in consultation with the Big Game Management Advisory Committee (BGMAC), a public advisory body on big game species. We have adjusted the number of moose tags available in 2018 to address the downward trend we are seeing in some parts of the province, while providing more hunting opportunities in areas where sustainable populations exist."

Kowalski said overall, Ontario has reduced 2018 moose tags for resident hunters by 8.2 per cent (less 844 tags) from the 2017 season.