GREAT NORTHERN PENINSULA, NL – Outfitters on the Great Northern Peninsula say they’re pleased to see a cut in moose licences, but feel the province isn’t going far enough to save the population.
The departments of Fisheries and Land Resources and Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation announced the overall moose quota for resident hunters would be reduced to 29,260 licences for the 2018-19 big game season.
That’s a cut of 2,470 licences from last year.
While outfitters on the Northern Peninsula see this as a positive development given the decline in the moose population, they feel more needs to be done to allow it to rebound.
Barb Genge, owner of Tuckamore Lodge based out of Main Brook, believes government should have cut more licences and shortened the season.
A few years ago, the province increased the number of licences by about 5,000, she says.
She feels this cut of 2,470 licences doesn’t make up for that previous increase.
“I thought the reduction would be larger,” Genge told the Northern Pen. “I figured they would take the 5,000 out now that we got a problem.”
And she believes the season should end around the middle of November instead of the end of December.
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Kirk Biggin, co-owner of Hynes’ Hunting and Fishing in Portland Creek, agrees the season needs to end earlier, and says moose have been overhunted and too many licences for female moose have been issued.
“We’ve given out way too many cow licences,” he said.
Eric Patey, owner of Patey & Sons in River of Ponds, also says killing cows when they’re pregnant is hurting the population.
“Put it this way, a farmer, once all the cows are pregnant, they don’t kill their cows then or else they won’t have any calves,” he told the Northern Pen.
Genge stresses the importance of properly managing resources in the province.
“If it’s not managed properly then you end up with nothing and we don’t want ‘nothing,’” she said. “We already know what nothing feels like when they cut the salmon in 1990 and 1992 when they shut down the cod fishery.
“I don’t want us in rural Newfoundland to lose anything else.”
A caribou quota reduction will also be coming to Caribou Management Area (CMA) 69 on the Northern Peninsula.
Per the announcement, the quota will be reduced to 602 animals from 650, primarily in CMA 69 where numbers have dropped by 52 per cent since the last survey.
It says the area does not include the St. Anthony (CMA 76), where caribou numbers are stable.
A total caribou hunting closure is planned for CMA 69 commencing in 2019-20. The closure will be introduced and remain in effect until there is evidence of a recovery in caribou numbers.
The decision to take a one-year transition to the closure of CMA 69 was to offset economic implications for outfitters.
Biggin, whose business was left with just one caribou licence a few years ago, says he definitely sees far fewer caribou but he’s not sure of the causes or how to recover the population.
“I understand the moose and what’s going on with them – I’ve seen the droppings and the worms, but I’ve never seen it in caribou,” he said. “I don’t know.”
He wonders if the caribou decline is just part of a natural cycle.
However, Patey has something else in mind. He blames the caribou population decline on coyotes.
Up to now, he says nobody has done anything to counter the impact of coyotes on the caribou population. He doesn’t believe the numbers will recover unless government action is taken.
“If you’re not going to do nothing to combat the coyotes then closing the season is not going to do us any good,” said Patey. “I don’t think anything will do us any good if we’re not going to put some kind of program in to take out what’s killing the caribou.”
He believes coyote predation has been more severe than that of other species, including bears. While bears kill caribou as well, they hibernate in the winter, whereas coyotes kill caribou all winter long, he says.
“Any time you go ski-dooing in the wintertime and there’s caribou dead all over the snow, you can blame it on whatever you want to, but it’s not the bears – they’re hibernating,” he said.
According to the 2018-19 hunting and trapping guide, the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources has reinstated a canid carcass collection program where hunters and trappers who voluntarily submit wolf, coyote and wolf-coyote hybrid carcasses to a local branch office receive a $25-fee.
The program is in place to help monitor and investigate the distribution of wolf and wolf-coyote hybrids within the province by collecting genetic samples of these animals.
While caribou hunting is only a small percentage of business for Northern Peninsula outfitters, Patey says any cut at all means less business for the region.
“If those licences are no longer there to sell, then those people aren’t going to be coming to the island, spending the money,” he said.