First Nations, Métis get behind prohibition on moose hunting


BRUCE BUMSTEAD / BRANDON SUN ARCHIVES”]Moose hunting ban in Manitoba

WOLVES, ticks and a deadly parasite are killing so many Manitoba moose that hunters, including those from First Nations and Métis communities, are ready to lay down their rifles.

This week, Manitoba announced a ban on moose hunting near the Duck and Porcupine Mountains of western Manitoba, expanding a ban imposed in 2010 in the Swan Lake and Pelican Lake regions, west of lake Winnipegosis.

Some Manitoba aboriginal leaders say conservation trumps politics during a crisis like this. “I know we have treaty rights to hunt but if there’s nothing to hunt, what good are they? We have to support whatever can bring the population back up,” said Grand Chief Ron Evans, head of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

Evans said Tuesday that co-management with the province is critical for First Nations, who face a population boom at the same time moose numbers are crashing.

The Métis, unlike First Nations, lack treaty hunting rights, but Manitoba courts recognize Métis aboriginal hunting rights.

The Manitoba Métis Federation said the decline in moose in western Manitoba is a major worry.

“It’s hard to say to our people, ‘Don’t hunt,’ ” said Ken Leforte, MMF’s natural resources minister.

Moose are called the monarch of the boreal forest for good reason.  Some giants weigh in at 2,500 pounds with antler spans two metres wide or more.

The provincial government charted moose trouble to an area in western Manitoba. Moose numbers have dropped up to 90 per cent over the last 20 years in some regions.

“There has been a serious decline of moose population in certain areas of our province and if they drop any further, there’s a risk they may not recover,” Conservation Minister Bill Blaikie said.

The ban covers game hunting in a triangle bordered by the Saskatchewan border to the west, Lake Winnipegosis to the east and Duck Mountain to the south.

It is effective immediately. The province is considering similar measures in eastern Manitoba.

In a twist on hunting, the province wants hunters to go after wolves,  effectively turning the two biggest predators of moose against each other.

The province will pay $250 a pelt to trappers who hand over tissue samples from the carcasses and raise the limit for hunters to two wolves from one.

Moose populations are also affected by parasites such as the winter tick and the brain worm, said Dan Bulloch, a senior policy analyst with Manitoba Conservation.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 6, 2011 A6