NORTHERN PENINSULA, NL – After a dismal hunting season, concerns are rising over the moose population on the Northern Peninsula.
And councils and outfitters are starting to look for changes in management.
The Town of Conche has sent a letter to the office of Gerry Byrne, minister of Fisheries and Land Resources, requesting support to conduct a study on the Northern Peninsula’s moose population.
The letter indicates the town has serious concerns that the moose population is at risk, and says residents have observed “serious declines” in Moose Management Areas 1 (St. Anthony), 40 (Conche) and 45 (Ten Mile Brook).
The town has distributed another letter to neighbouring communities requesting their support.
Conche councillor Brendan Fitzpatrick is head guide for hunting and fishing at Tuckamore Lodge. He operates in Area 40 and 45, and has worked in the woods for 32 years.
He’s seen some decline in recent years, but 2017 has been the worst he’s ever seen for moose.
“Never had it as bad as this year,” he told the Northern Pen.
According to Fitzpatrick, many licenses are turning up empty this year.
In Conche alone, he estimates about 18 out of 25 license holders have failed to catch a moose this season.
Tuckamore Lodge owner Barb Genge says the moose capture rate has dropped “substantially” in 2017.
But the moose also simply aren’t being seen as they were in previous years.
Fitzpatrick estimates last year, he saw about 10 per day. This year, on an average day he saw more like three or four.
And there were days he didn’t see any at all, which he calls unusual.
Even travelling along the roads, they’re no longer visible as frequently.
It took hunter Leonard Tucker of St. Anthony most of the season to catch his moose in Area 1. Tucker went hunting every Saturday and every evening around the Big Brook area, and in behind the St. Anthony airport.
He saw a few calves and cows but never a bull.
On Dec. 7, he finally killed the first bull he had seen all fall.
“Very unusual,” he commented. “Very few animals and a lot of hunters are saying the same.”
Both Fitzpatrick and Tucker state moose started to see a downturn in Area 1 in recent years, once government started issuing licenses that allowed cows to be hunted.
Fitzpatrick worries a decline in the moose population would strike a blow for the region’s economy that would extend beyond just outfitting businesses like Tuckamore Lodge.
Many people come from away to hunt moose on the Northern Peninsula.
“You’re getting people in all those communities that’s coming in, renting places, buying groceries and gas,” he said.
But that will change if hunters aren’t getting anything for their license. They won’t have any reason to return.
Licenses are already booked for next year, Fitzpatrick says, but he’s worried that the following year the number could be lower.
In its letter to Byrne, Conche council advocates for changes to current licensing policies.
They wish to see the number of licenses decreased, no calf licenses permitted and the hunting season closed earlier.
Both Fitzpatrick and Genge support these proposed changes.
They also felt that fewer cows should be hunted for moose to reproduce at a higher volume.
And Genge says they need more enforcement officers on the Northern Peninsula to regulate the hunt. Currently, she says, there are two officers between Deer Lake and St. Anthony, based out of Roddickton. She believes the area is too big for just two individuals to cover.
Genge thinks they need six to eight officers on the Northern Peninsula to properly enforce policies and prevent poaching.
Fitzpatrick believes management needs to makes changes soon, or else the effects may be permanent.
“If there’s nothing done about it soon, I think our moose are gone,” he said. “I think it’s going to be hard to get it back now, as it is.”
Genge says, “I don’t want for us to lose on the land what we lost on the ocean.”