Given the declining population of moose across the province, the provincial government is taking measures to modernize aspects of wildlife management, initially focusing on growing moose populations.
Although the provincial government hasn’t specified what its actions will be, Lakes District News has learned that the general open season (GOS) for moose in the southern Skeena region may be called off.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations did not confirm nor deny that information.
“Final decisions have not yet been made,” said Greig Bethel, a spokesperson with the ministry. “We expect the hunting and trapping regulations synopsis to be finalized in May.”
The moose population declined by 14 per cent in B.C. between 2011 and 2014, according to the provincial government. In the Bulkley Valley Lakes District, the moose population declined by 20 per cent from 2004 to 2011.
Last Sunday, members of the Tweedsmuir Park Rod and Gun Club met to discuss the moose decline in the region and the possible changes in regulations by the ministry. In particular, members discussed what their preferred method would be to achieve the region’s annual allocation – via GOS, limited entry hunting (LEH), or a combination of LEH and GOS.
According to the Skeena Hunter Advisory Committee (SHAC), an organization that facilitates communications between hunting interests and regional wildlife managers, the ministry of forests stated in a recent meeting that the proportion of moose harvested in the GOS is higher than the proportion of moose harvested through LEH in the southern Skeena region.
Denys Bell, member of the Tweedsmuir Park Rod and Gun Club and chairman for the Skeena Hunter Advisory Committee, defends that the harvest of moose in the Bulkley Valley Lakes District hasn’t affected the moose population.
Bell said nobody knows for sure why the moose population has been declining in B.C., and that the decline could be linked to a combination of factors.
In order to investigate the reasons behind the moose decline, the province launched a five-year moose research study in 2013. The study is engaging 11 wildlife biologists, one wildlife veterinarian and several other staff over its five-year duration. The province says over 200 moose will be radio collared, their movements tracked and all mortalities will be investigated to determine cause of death.
The study is analysing factors such as hunting pressure, predators, parasites and diseases, and climate. It will also investigate how forestry-related changes to the landscape may impact those mortality risks.
Although the final results of the study will not be available for several years, the province says wildlife biologists will be able to use preliminary information to help direct management of moose throughout the province.
The Wildlife Stewardship Council (WSC), a not for profit society of First Nations and guide outfitters from across B.C., contends that wildlife declines are a direct result of a number of key factors, including failure of successive governments to acknowledge many of the concerns being voiced by conservation organizations and First Nations. In addition, the WSC says that industrial activity with little oversight or accountability has led to severe habitat degradation.
Lake Babine Nation (LBN) Chief Wilf Adam said he has been particularly concerned about the moose decline in the region because LBN relies on moose for sustenance.
“We are working with the Ministry [of Forests] on the reasons for the moose decline and looking at all avenues for possible causes,” said Chief Adam.
The B.C. government is considering putting revenues from hunting licences and tags into a dedicated fund for wildlife management, forests minister Steve Thomson said recently.
A similar shift was made with fishing licence revenue last year to boost the budget for the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C. by $3 million a year for its lake stocking program. The province is in discussions with the B.C. Wildlife Federation and others to do something similar, Thomson told Black Press in an interview.
He said an additional $12 million in his ministry budget this year is to support wildlife inventory and habitat improvement.