A large decline in the moose population on the east side of Lake Winnipeg has the Manitoba Wildlife Federation calling for a full closure of a key moose-hunting area.
The Federation wants Game Hunting Area 26 completely shut down to hunting in order to allow the population in that region to recover. MWF spokesperson John Williams says the population is at a tipping point.
“The moose populations have drastically dropped. In the last ten years, on the east side of Lake Winnipeg in GHA 26, the moose population has dropped 60-65% over ten years. It’s at the point now that if we don’t have a complete closure, along with some other measures that have been taken, the moose will not be able to recover in that area.”
The Federation’s call for a complete closure comes on the heels of a partial closure announced by Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship. Conservation officials are prohibiting moose hunting in parts of GHA 26, but are not yet ready to close off the entire area. The MWF says they should, with Williams pointing to Conservation’s own data showing a complete absence of moose in the region within 5 years if all hunting is not stopped. He adds the only problem with a complete hunting shutdown in GHA 26 is that no one knows how long it would be needed.
“It’s hard to say. There are so many factors and that it is why we can’t put a time limit on it. A lot of people want to know how long it needs to be closed and our answer is, it’s not length of time, its numbers. We need to get the population up to a certain number before we can open it up, but we need to determine that number. In order to determine that, we need to know what that ecosystem can support.”
Williams says the explosion in the wolf population has led to more predation by wolves and coyotes. He adds the Brainworm parasite is also having an effect on numbers. It is estimated there are between 800-850 moose in Manitoba if the 2010 census numbers are accurate.
MWF is hoping to meet with government officials soon to discuss the matter because, as Williams says, time is not on their side.
“We’ve written a letter to the new (Conservation & Water Stewardship) Minister Gord Mackintosh asking for a meeting. We met with Minister (Bill) Blaikie two years ago on this thing, asking for a full closure at that time. Now, the government says they have a duty to consult with First Nations, and we agree, but it has taken them so long to get their act together that the time for consulting has long passed and it’s time for action. If we don’t do something now, we’ll end up with a problem like we have with Woodland Caribou – they’re a species at risk.”
Williams says MWF has the backing of local aboriginal groups and the Metis Federation, which should make a complete ban a bit easier to enforce.