Of the 400 limited entry hunts for antlerless moose anticipated to be authorized by the B.C. Government for the 2020 hunting season, 322 will be in critical mountain caribou habitat. (Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation photo)

B.C. government eyes antlerless moose harvest increase in bid to save caribou

Antlerless moose hunts reduce predation for threatened mountain caribou, says ministry

Antlerless moose limited entry hunts are anticipated to increase in B.C. this year in a strategic attempt to recover caribou.

Licensed hunting of cow and calf moose has been concentrated within mountain caribou recovery areas for the past number of years as removing moose in such areas is expected to reduce predators, mainly wolves, and consequently reduce predation on threatened mountain caribou, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said.

“This wildlife management action has been occurring in the Parsnip Valley and northwest of Revelstoke for over a decade,” a ministry spokesperson said.

Although this strategy of lowering moose populations using increased hunting opportunities has not appeared to benefit caribou in the Parsnip Valley, caribou numbers for the largest herd in the Revelstoke area stabilized after moose were reduced by approximately 80 per cent. Two very small herds, however, continued to declined.

Read More: B.C. Government culls 94 wolves in West Chilcotin caribou habitat

The spokesperson said without the moose reduction, it was projected that the caribou would have continued to decline significantly.

Last year 357 antlerless moose limited entry hunts were authorized in B.C. This year that number is expected to increase to 400 antlerless tags provincially.

While efforts have been made to bolster caribou populations, concerns have also been raised in recent years over the sharp decline in moose numbers throughout much of the province. That decrease has led to reductions in harvesting by guide outfitters, non-Indigenous hunters as well as Indigenous communities who rely on moose for sustenance.

The potential increase in the antlerless moose hunt drew the ire of Cow Moose Sign project founder Dan Simmons recently who questioned the ministry’s intentions with the increase.

The ministry noted the tentative number of authorizations within caribou recovery areas increased by 57 (from 275 to 322), while the tentative number outside of caribou recovery areas was reduced by four (from 82 to 78).

Approximately 80 to 90 per cent of all cow/calf moose harvested by licensed hunters come from caribou recovery areas. Over the last three years, approximately 77 per cent of cow/calf moose hunting authorizations have been allocated to caribou recovery areas, which represent nine per cent of the total area where cow/calf moose hunting is permitted.

About 88 percent of the area occupied by moose in B.C. has a prohibition on licensed cow/calf moose hunting, added the ministry.

Read More: Cow moose campaign gets political support in bid to shut down B.C.’s antlerless hunt

Increased limited entry antlerless moose hunts have also been condemned this year by B.C. Liberals Donna Barnett and John Rustad.

Rustad said moose are more susceptible to predators such as wolves as a result of their habitat having been reduced following record wildfire seasons throughout the province in 2017 and 2018.

Most species in B.C., however, evolved in and require wildfire-maintained ecosystems to thrive, the ministry said.

“Scientific literature suggests that wildlife populations are not negatively impacted by wildfires, and any wildlife mortality directly related to fires is considered to be outweighed by the long-term benefits to habitat.”

Wildfires lead to increased forage quality and quantity, the ministry added.

An example it said would be the Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park where before a fire in 2003, there were an estimated 18 to 20 mountain goats. Now the population has grown to more than 100.

Moose population in B.C. is estimated between 110,000 to 185,000 animals. The ministry said the province manages for 30 to 50 cow moose per 100 bulls.

A decision on the antlerless moose harvest is expected in mid-June.


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