This week the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) announced changes to the moose hunt to address declining moose populations. The changes announced, as far as I could see, were exactly the changes proposed prior to posting on the Environmental Board Registry (EBR), which is there to solicit comments from the public before changes are finalized.
Having worked for the government, I know that to make changes to proposed actions once those changes are posted on the EBR is tantamount to a crime, insofar as government is concerned. It’s believed to reflect poorly on the politicians and the bureaucracy. So needless to say, I wasn’t in the least surprised to see nothing had changed as a result of ‘public consultation’. According to the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), most hunters were supportive of change, but most of the comments did not support the changes being proposed by the MNRF. OFAH certainly didn’t.
I don’t like the changes proposed either, for a number of reasons I’ve already discussed (see my post ‘New Moose Regs Proposed’, on Feb. 08). I think the changes don’t go far enough, are misdirected and ignore a number of factors. Not good news for moose, especially, nor good news for anyone who appreciates moose, including hunters. FYI, I did provide comments.
What is going to occur this fall is a change to the timing and length of the ‘calf hunt’, as well as an overall reduction in adult tags by 15% across the province. Changes to the numbers of adult validation tags is nothing new, as it’s been part of the way moose have been managed for more than 20 years. The change to the timing of when moose hunters can harvest a calf, is a real change. During the approximately 10 week long moose regular gun season, hunters this fall will only be allowed to harvest calf moose for the 2nd and 3rd week of the season, instead of all season long, as before. Next year, the opening of the gun hunt will be a week later, effectively eliminating the chance for gun hunters to hunt by calling in an amorous bull.
Provincially, moose numbers have been in decline for more than 10 years. Recently (2013-15), according to the MNRF, moose populations surveys were done in 59 of the 67 Wildlife Management Units (WMU’s) where moose are hunted. Surveys done this past January noted declines in 15 WMU’s, 1 had an increase, 10 had stable populations and 1 survey couldn’t be completed. That’s been the trend and similar to what’s been going on in neighboring Minnesota and Manitoba; but even Vermont has documented a big decline in it’s moose population over the past number of years.
The MNRF says the next phase of it’s moose management program is going to look at climate change and it’s effect on moose, and related factors like habitat management and predation. Meaningful change will likely continue to occur as slow as the movement of molasses in January.
Moose management is not rocket science and it seems to me the process of management in Ontario, and in some other jurisdictions, proceeds at a snail’s pace. If management of hunted species like moose is to be ‘successful’ (what success is can be vague), the management process has to be far more nimble than it is today. Plus, in my opinion, there is way too much political interference in wildlife management (this is not unique to Ontario, but it’s much, much worse here, I think, than in Manitoba and Minnesota, where steps to manage declining moose have already occurred). And in Alberta, a province I hunt in (a lot), it seems to me they have a system that lets managers manage with much less political interference.
As a result, biologists here can’t do the job they are trained to do. It’s a major reason why I discourage young people from pursuing a career in wildlife management.
In Ontario, it’s not a career that brings a lot of job satisfaction. Not just me talking, either.