It was with interest that I read Gary Hemmerling’s recent letter to the editor about moose management (‘Political Interference affecting moose’).
As a long-time resident of the Lakes District, I support his assertion that moose populations here are in trouble. I also believe the situation is far more serious than government officials suggest.
I hike extensive in the backcountry. Not only am I not seeing many moose these days, but I’m not seeing much moose sign either.
Eagle Creek Canyon is a case in point. As recently as the mid-1990s, when I first began exploring the area, I regularly encountered the animals. Evidence that they used the area extensively was everywhere; game trails in the upper canyon were 18 inches wide and almost a foot deep. Today, moose are conspicuously absent from the area and the trails I once traveled have disappeared.
While it’s possible, as Mr. Hemmerling suggests, that political interference has played a part in moose management, I believe the species’s decline is the result of several factors: habitat loss, accelerated timber harvesting, hunting pressure, increased predation by wolves and bears, and perhaps even climate change.
Yet the biggest problem is that the province has historically taken a narrow approach to the issue. Managing for moose has been, as Al Gorley states in his recent report ‘A strategy to help restore moose populations in British Columbia,’ a derivative of other management activities such as timber harvesting, energy development, and other industrial land uses.
Rather than taking a holistic approach to managing the species (e.g., managing resource extraction with moose populations in mind), the province has tended to utilize only those tools available under the Wildlife Act – and as Gorley points out, those tools are proving inadequate.
Another major flaw in the province’s moose management strategy has been the tendency of decision-makers to discount information from people like Mr. Hemmerling in favour of information gathered from sources deemed more ‘scientific.’
Survey data and “expert” (i.e., ‘biologist’) opinion have traditionally carried more weight with the fish and wildlife branch than first-hand reports from users of the resource.
This approach is seriously flawed and has failed to provide sufficiently specific information to make operational decisions. Gorley agrees, and has recommended that the province pay more heed to local observations and knowledge.
Gorley’s report makes for interesting reading and offers some hope for the future of B.C.’s moose. While the province has accepted his recommendations, it will take time to implement them; in the meantime, moose populations here will likely continue to decline.
For this reason, although I do most of my hunting these days with a camera, I join Hemmerling and many others in calling on the province to close the open season.
Unfortunately, our individual calls for action will likely fall on deaf ears. If we really want to effect change on this important issue, we need to work together. Hunters, guides, First Nations governments, sportsmen’s clubs, and municipal councils need to form a coalition strong enough to challenge the status quo.