Save Our Moose
There are a number of significant challenges to ensuring sustainable moose populations across the Manitoba landscape. We believe most of these challenges can be overcome if we work together to develop collaborative, regionally-tailored moose management plans.
CPAWS Manitoba has developed formal recommendations for how to best protect Manitoba’s moose. We are also offering these solutions.
Ensuring Land Conservation
Challenges & Opportunities
Manitoba’s moose are not acknowledged as threatened under the law. There is also some debate as to the seriousness of the problem, particularly given the lack of reliable population data.
The limited data available to us shows significant declines of as much as 57 percent in some areas.
Waiting to act until the situation is officially dire is the wrong response. We need to take action now to protect Manitoba’s moose before it’s too late.
Manitoba’s woodland caribou have been listed as a threatened species since 2006. The government has since released three caribou recovery strategies. However, it has not yet develop any management plans.
A formal plan takes time to develop. However, there are actions which can be taken immediately to save moose in areas where populations are collapsing or in significant decline.
Hunting restrictions appear to be helping in some areas.
The moose population has nearly doubled since restrictions were imposed in Game Hunting Area 26 south of Bissett, Manitoba. An aerial survey estimated the area contained 1,602 moose in January 2018, up from 823 in a 2010 survey.
While reliable moose population data and a collaborative, regionally-tailored approach is required to develop effective management plans, these key components should not be excuses to delay action.
Reliable population data is critical for measuring the effectiveness of a moose management plan (by comparing to a baseline) and ensuring it can be adapted to regional realities.
The province’s current population estimate of 27,000 moose is considered to be significantly inflated. The Manitoba chapter of The Wildlife Society estimated in 2015 that the population dropped below 20,000 moose and strongly requested “new and bold management approaches” in 2017 amid signs of “alarmingly low” and “collapsed” populations in some areas. Nobody really knows for sure.
Aerial surveys conducted since 2015 only assessed a fraction of the province (Manitoba has more than 60 hunting areas: moose were assessed in seven areas in 2017, three areas in 2018 and 2015 and just two areas in 2016.)
Increased funding for scientific surveys is clearly required to properly manage Manitoba’s moose population.
Citizen scientists can also be deployed to assist with monitoring. Indigenous and licensed hunters are a particularly valuable resource: they know the land, they know the moose and they are invested in ensuring a sustainable population.
An app and online portal already exist to help biologists track Manitoba’s plants and animals: Go Wild Manitoba! It could be used to support a more formal survey or monitoring program.
There currently is no way for wildlife managers to access reliable harvest data.
Provincial tracking is limited to a paper questionnaire mailed to licensed moose hunters. Some Indigenous governments track moose harvests among rights-holders. Without data from all hunters, moose populations cannot be effectively managed.
Cooperative and mandatory tracking and sharing of all licensed and rights-based moose harvest numbers between provincial and Indigenous governments will provide land users and managers with reliable harvest data.
Moose are thriving in some parts of Manitoba, and at a point of serious concern and even collapse in others. Over-harvesting is a prime factor in some areas, while habitat loss is a problem in others.
An effective moose management plan must be regionally tailored. A collaborative approach is also required to engage local knowledge holders, hunters, community leaders and residents.
Moose are a concern to a broad mix of rights-holders and stakeholders across the province, each with unique priorities, concerns and rights. While most Manitobans believe it’s important to maintain a sustainable moose population, efforts to address the problem have been controversial.
The hunting rights of Metis, First Nations and Inuit people are often not fully understood, nor are the efforts of Indigenous governments to sustainably manage hunting in their territories (see, for instance, the Metis Laws of the Harvest.)
Provincial efforts to ban hunting in some areas have been criticized as a top-down process which failed to adequately communicate the need for a ban or to consult with local knowledge holders.
While the province can ban hunting for conservation purposes, these efforts will only succeed if rights-holders and stakeholders are involved, trust the process, and understand the urgency for action.
Community leaders, hunters and land users are valuable sources of knowledge who must be engaged in order to develop effective and regionally-tailored management plans.
A collaborative and inclusive approach is critical to implementing successful moose management plans.
Poaching is a problem under any circumstances. When populations reach critical lows, the loss of even a single moose cow can be devastating.
Manitoba stepped up poaching patrols in 2017 after a significant increase in illegal hunting. Night hunting has also become an increasing concern after a man was killed while hunting near Brandon in 2016 and a teenager checking traps was shot in the face by a night hunter near Pulp River in 2017.
Manitoba’s conservation officers patrol huge areas and are often overworked and under-resourced. Hiring more officers will allow for increased enforcement and will also result in a host of other benefits including: improved public safety and education; wildfire reporting support; better resource management; and increased monitoring of commercial activities such as mining and forestry.
Habitat loss and disturbances have a dramatic impact on moose populations. Moose require a diverse habitat to thrive: they forage in wetlands, bogs and young forests and they seek shelter in mature forests.
Large-scale commercial activities such as mining, forestry and farming can have a dramatic impact on a region’s carrying capacity (the number of moose which can thrive based on the quality of the habitat). Roads and hydro lines have a lesser impact on carrying capacity, but they can have a dramatic impact on mortality by drawing hunters, predators and parasite-carrying deer into moose territory.
New parks and protected areas are key to ensuring Manitoba’s moose populations are maintained at a sustainable—and harvestable—level.
Large protected areas of suitable habitat will reduce pressures on moose caused by climate change and habitat loss. These areas will also protect many other boreal species and ecological services that people and wildlife depend upon.
Roads have a clear impact on moose mortality. Hunters and predators gain access to once-remote areas. Deer also use roads to move into moose territory, carrying the deadly parasite brain worm and drawing more predators to the area.
Yet people need roads—especially in isolated remote and rural communities. Decommissioning or removing roads can also be quite costly.
Community leaders know which roads they need, and which ones are no longer necessary. A collaborative approach could swiftly identify underutilized roads in areas where moose populations are approaching, or are already at, unsustainable levels.
Costs can be contained by hiring local people to do the work. In some instances a series of barricades will be sufficient to reduce hunting pressure. To limit access by deer and predators, a series of visual barriers can be built with debris from tearing up parts of the road. This will also allow for habitat renewal, especially if it’s accompanied by restoration efforts.
Save Our Moose
Moose may soon disappear completely from some parts of Manitoba, where the population has dropped by as much as 57 percent. Tell Premier Brian Pallister to save our moose.
Ensuring Healthy Moose Populations
Challenges & Opportunities