Group fears for moose, bats at Nopiming and Fisher Bay

July 11, 2010

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 10, 2010 A3

OTTAWA—The plummeting moose population in Nopiming Provincial Park demonstrates the animals need more space if they are going to survive, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society said Friday.

In its 2010 Review of Canada’s Parks, the organization calls for more and bigger parks across the country that are connected to provide wildlife with improved mobility and migratory paths.

“In the old days, we used to draw boundaries for parks based on political decisions, not ecological need,” said CPAWS Manitoba executive director Ron Thiessen. “But the lack of parks, protected areas, and connections between them has led to a massive decline in species across Canada.”

Thiessen noted the fact Riding Mountain National Park and Duck Mountain Provincial Park are not connected via protected land cuts off wildlife species like elk and wolves from their traditional migratory routes.

Instead of swaths of protected land connecting with each other from coast to coast, Canada’s parks are “small islands of nature in developed landscapes,” the report says.

The report singles out the Nopiming moose and little brown bats near Fisher Bay on Lake Winnipeg as two species that are either at risk or could be if there is not significant intervention in Manitoba.

Since 2000, the estimated number of moose in Nopiming has plummeted from 1,800 to just 700.

Increased access for hunting due to an influx of logging roads and a rise in predators such as coyotes and wolves are quickly killing off the moose.

“More than a 60 per cent decline in the last decade is very dramatic and we’re seeing those declines across the province,” Thiessen said.

Jack Dubois, director of the wildlife and ecosystem protection branch of Manitoba Conservation, said on the opposite side of the province in Duck Mountain, the moose population is down nearly 60 per cent since 1993. As of February, there were 1,349 moose counted in the park.

Dubois said the Manitoba government is embarking on a consultation process with “everyone interested in moose” in the province.

“We’re hoping by this winter we’ll have a draft moose management strategy,” he said. “We want to stop the rate of decline as soon as we can.”

Manitoba has already put a moratorium on moose hunting in both Nopiming and Duck Mountain, something CPAWS credited as a good move.

But Dubois said there isn’t a focus in Manitoba on connecting parks to one another. The emphasis is rather on identifying rare or unique species or geological features and protecting them first.

The next provincial park will likely be Fisher Bay on the south shore of Lake Winnipeg, but there’s debate over the boundaries of that proposed preserve.

The report notes Fisher Bay is home to the largest bat hibernation spot in the province, in a system of limestone caves. Little brown bats are numerous there—one cave alone reportedly has 25,000—but without proper protection, they would be in trouble, Thiessen said.

CPAWS wants the park to be 160,000 hectares, but the province currently has 89,000 hectares protected and the protected status of that area runs out in October.

“We’re waiting to see if good ecological sense will prevail over political concerns,” Thiessen said.

He said mining and logging operators have a stake in the land outside the current protected zone and are likely lobbying the province not to close those lands off.

Dubois said there is no reason to believe the bats will be put in jeopardy, noting their habitat is within the area with the highest level of protection. He said negotiations on the boundaries are moving ahead in good faith with all involved.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 10, 2010 A3

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