The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) released the moose tag quotas for provincial, resident moose hunters late last week for the 2014 fall hunt. The numbers weren’t good, as was widely rumored. For resident gun hunters, there will be 5,970 bull tags and 4,685 cow tags available; resident archery hunters will have 925 bull tags and 1, 546 cow tags. The tourist industry will get a bit more than 10% of the tags residents have. To put this in some context, we need to go back to 2007, the year MNR announced “a broad review of Ontario’s moose management program to ensure that the program continues to address factors affecting moose populations and is also responsive to the needs of Ontarians.”
That program review is still on-going, but with the exception of a lot of talking, meeting and writing of reports and documents, about the only real change that’s occurred has been clamping down – somewhat – on the ability of hunters to transfer tags from one hunter to another. Oh, yes, and the continual reduction of the number of moose tags available. For the 2007 hunt, there were 9,718 resident bull tags and 3,398 cow tags for gun hunters; archers had access to 1,043 bull tags and 1,374 cow tags. Again, the tourism industry got a bit over 10% of what was allocated to residents.
So in 7 years, the number of adult moose tags available to Ontario resident gun hunters has declined by almost 19%; for archers the decline is only about 2%. However, In both cases, the reduction is far greater with respect to bull tags, which is what the majority of moose hunters want.
A reduction in tag numbers is usually a response to declining populations, while a shift in tags by sex is usually a response to sex ratios in the population. It seems strange that there are more cow tags available in 2014 than in 2007, especially if moose populations are generally in decline, which is true in the majority of the wildlife management units where moose hunting occurs (see my previous post “Missing Moose”).
Unfortunately, the MNR has to date not released the results of moose surveys done earlier this year. When those results are available, I’ll provide a further take on what seems to be going on, including actual moose harvest data (as moose tags have declined, so has the harvest of moose – I don’t know how many moose were harvested in 2013, but in 2012 is was around 7,000, which includes the tourist industry harvest and calf harvest. Note that for the most part, calf harvest is not limited by tags; see http://www.oodmag.com/hunting/big-game/hunt-calf-moose/ for further info).
In the interim, I’d have to say the ‘moose program review’ has not been a resounding success, at least as far as moose hunters are concerned.