Editorial: listen to those who know

First Nations and hunters are worried about moose populations. Why isn’t the government listening?

Last week, the Observer ran a story on reductions to the Limited Entry Hunt for moose in many parts of the Cariboo.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development’s Wildlife and Habitat Branch made some changes to the Cariboo’s moose harvest allocations this year, in light of declining populations due to a number of factors, including the 2017 wildfires.

The Wildlife Branch says it has conducted moose population counts and assessments of habitat in burn areas, and that the reduced harvest numbers are in line with the populations out in the forests.

But many First Nations groups in the Cariboo have spoken out recently against moose hunts. ?Esdilagh (Alexandria) has pledged to stop hunting moose altogether this season; other members of the Tsilhqot’in National Government have been vocal about their concern for the ungulates and held an emergency summit July 10; and Nazko First Nation Chief Stuart Alec said in an interview with the Observer that his band members are also very concerned about not only the numbers of moose in the area, but their wellbeing, saying they appear “beaten down.”

Many of these First Nations members who are expressing concern live in small communities, far from cities and towns. They see (or don’t see, as the case may be) first hand whether there are moose in their traditional territories.

Similarly, some hunters and hunting guide-outfitters are in agreement with First Nations.

These two groups of people rely on moose hunting for their livelihoods. If First Nations and guide-outfitters are saying the moose populations are too low to sustain the current harvest allocations, shouldn’t we listen?

That’s not to discount the Wildlife Branch’s methodologies in calculating the number of moose available. The Branch employs scientists and biologists who, presumably, know their stuff, and we reporters can’t pretend to understand all the calculations and research that goes into coming up with these numbers.

But it’s worrying that these local groups, who have a lot invested into whether moose are hunted or not, are calling for change.

The moose may not be our national animal, but it’s a close second to our illustrious flat-tailed mascot, the beaver. Canada would not be Canada without its enormous, slightly odd-looking, though majestic forest creatures.

In Canada, moose are already on Nova Scotia’s endangered animals list. British Columbians desperately don’t want to join our east-dwelling countrymen in adding this animal to our provincial list.

Perhaps the government needs to listen more closely to the people who’ve relied upon moose populations their whole lives.

Quesnel Cariboo Observer

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