An increase to B.C’s limited entry hunt (LEH) for cow and calf moose makes little, if any, sense to a First Nation south of Williams Lake which has noticed a drastic decline in the moose population.
In a letter to Minister of Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Doug Donaldson, Esk’etemc First Nation (Alkali) wrote on July 13 community hunters were only able to take three moose within the territory which like other other areas of the Cariboo-Chilcotin region has seen increased pressure on hunting areas due to the adverse impacts of the 2017/18 wildfires.
“To offset Esk’etemc’s community need for food provisions, Council accepted an invitation from Alberta’s Canadian Forces Military base in Suffield to cull elk,” stated Kukpi7 (Chief) Fred Robbins with Senkukpi7 (Hereditary Chief) Francis Johnson Jr.
“This is not acceptable given our Aboriginal Rights to hunt is entrenched in the Canadian Constitution and is noted in many successful hunting court cases.”
The B.C. Government has approved 400 LEH authorizations of cow/calf moose this year — an increase of 43 animals from 2019 to help protect the iconic mountain caribou from extinction while reducing wolf numbers.
Maintaining they were neither informed or consulted on the increase, Esk’etemc asserts the cow and calf moose need to be protected and that they are opposed to the LEH increase.
Esk’etemc members for years have supported the Cow-Moose Sign project — an initiative created five years ago by Williams Lake resident Dan Simmons that promotes a province-wide moratorium on hunting antlerless moose.
In a news release, the nation said it has become commonplace for fish and wildlife in B.C. to be pushed to the brink of their resiliency until a crisis occurs and controversial management decisions are forced.
“This same narrative has played out with Fraser salmon for example which has increased hunting pressure on moose and other animals to meet food needs,” Esk’etemc said.
“In this case, thinning and maintaining low moose populations is being put forward as the only way to prevent the loss of endangered herds of caribou from wolf predation. This is counter productive to the grass-roots nature of the cow-moose sign project and does not provide moose the level of protection they need long-term.”
The province which said it has responded to the concerns raised in the letter, noted the antlerless hunt predates the current NDP government.
“The plan is based on good science; stabilizing rising moose populations means less wolves, which is better for the caribou,” said a Ministry spokesperson.
“The science on which this plan is based has not changed since it was introduced prior to this government. What has changed is that the vast majority of the cow/calf moose hunts are now happening in the caribou recovery zones.”
Of the 400 cow/calf authorizations, 322 are within the caribou recovery areas of Revelstoke and Parsnip —north of Prince George. The remaining 78 authorizations are outside of caribou recovery areas.
Licensed hunting opportunity for antlerles moose within Esk’etemc traditional territory has been closed since 1999.
Esk’etemc said they believe collaboration among First Nations, the B.C. Government and other interested groups would generate better solutions.
“Going along with the current moose LEH system means accepting the lack of good governance that has accompanied industrial development in the province over time,” Esk’etemc said, noting many complicated factors have altered moose habitat and negatively affected cow and calf moose survival in recent decades.
One of those factors is the infiltration of forestry roads in remote habitat that once provided respite for moose and other ungulates, Esk’etemc said.
“The provincial government is asking First Nations to sacrifice their rights and culture until moose populations are brought back to a healthy state, which does not appear to be part of their management agenda.”