Conserving Moose… or Not

Canadian Blog

by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate

Conserving Moose… or Not 11/10/16

Moose© Henry Schimke

North America’s moose population extends from Alaska to the East Coast, through boreal and mountain forests. Throughout much of that range, the species is in decline. Where I live, in Ontario, the population has declined by 20% in just the past 10 years.

There are now about 92,000 moose spread over a vast region. In Minnesota, moose are nearly gone from the northwest and are less than half of their earlier numbers in the northeast. In other places, they are either in decline, holding steady, or—in a few instances—increasing.

98,000 people want to hunt moose in Ontario… which outnumbers the moose!

The threats to moose are vast, including a suite of problems associated with global climate change—which is increasingly evident as you move north. Pressure from all manner of incursions, including forestry practices, mining, roads, recreational use, and so on, can reduce the ability of moose to survive.

But, most of these threats to moose directly benefit human short-term interests. So does hunting, for a vocal minority. And, hunters don’t want to stop hunting (although, of all of the immediate threats to moose, not shooting them is the easiest step that could be taken).

I understand that hunters don’t care, but not that they still claim to be “conservationists.” Of course, if they want to keep killing a species that’s in decline, they are no such thing.

That includes First Nations hunters who, exercising treaty rights, can kill any moose they wish to, without even having to report the numbers. However, when Ontario Environment Commissioner Diane Saxe recently published her first annual report with a section entitled “Ontario’s Moose Population Under Threat,” it was too much for moose hunter Rob Learn. He points to the number of collisions between moose and cars to explain that there are plenty of moose, and that the limit placed on how many can be killed by non-First Nations’ hunters guarantees species survival. He makes the valid point that the determination of how many moose there “should” be, as decided by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, is not entirely objective.

And then, there are the natural predators—mainly wolves and bears—who are scapegoated as a cause for moose declines. Killing, as always, becomes the solution.

Here’s a thought; don’t kill them. There’s a long list of North American wildlife species, from northern cod, to passenger pigeons, to bison, to Carolina parakeets, that plummeted from numerous to suddenly rare—even extinct—because the killing didn’t stop in time. We have time.

There are three times more Ontario government employees in Ontario than there are moose. Within their ranks lies the means to save these animals. Let’s start by stopping the killing. It might not happen… but it should.


One thought on “Conserving Moose… or Not

  1. Yeah, we know. It’s the wolves’ fault the moose are gone. Unless the cougars or the bears got them first.

    There are actually some other, better reasons for moose population decline.

    One is the climate change that causes a decrease in the plants that moose eat. Parasites, including ticks, harm the animals’ health. Researchers counted 100,000 on just one moose. In the West, a parasitic nematode, Elaeophora schneideri, or the carotid artery worm, restricts blood flow to the optic nerve and the brain. Brain worm (Fascioloides magna) and liver flukes contribute to moose mortality.

    Hunters cite moose traffic deaths as evidence there are too many moose. Those unfortunate deaths may result from the same cause as other wildlife deaths on the road–too many animals being forced from their habitat because of human encroachment and development.

    Hunters also cite mortality from predators, especially wolves. People forget that not every wolf hunt is successful. Some believe that the wolves lose as much as 75% of the time. A healthy moose is a formidable opponent that often leaves the wolves damaged, not the moose.

    The hunters are just too kill-crazy. They want all the animals to themselves. They don’t care that moose (or other animals) are traffic victims because they are losing their homes or that their food sources are disappearing or that they are more susceptible to attack from parasites when nutrition is poor. Hunters are eager to blame predators. Convenient! That gives them a cause to kill them too!

    Unfortunately, those who decide the fate of wildlife are on the wrong side. So more moose will probably lose their lives.

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