TURTLE ISLAND

Drastic reduction in number of Moose tags
By Debbi Christinck - Staff Writer - Eganville Leader April 3, 2002

Pembroke---- A dramatic decrease in the number of moose in a large area which includes Renfrew County means only a little over two dozen moose tags will be is-sued for this entire region this year.

The decision was not one Ministry of Natural Resources officials came to lightly, and this reduction was seen as the best possible option after several solutions, including a hunting moratorium were considered. "All I've done for the last month is think of moose," said Ray Bonnenberg, Pembroke District manager, MNR. "We looked at a total closure. This is a big issue. There are the 6,000 hunters and there are tourists operators."

He said he thought long and hard about the issue and examined it from a variety of angles to see if something else can be done. Interest in moose is great in this area. Last year 6,000 hunters applied for tags. In that same area there will be less than 30 tags issued this year, making the odds pretty slim of getting a tag.

The cut is significant, with only about 10 percent of the tags allotted for 2001 being issued for 2002. In the fall of 2002 only 17 bull tags will be issued in the Mattawa, Pembroke, Barry's Bay, Whitney and Bancroft areas, There will be only 10 cow tags for the same area, totalling 27 tags.

The MNR designation for these areas is WMU 48, WMU 55A, WMU 55B and WMU 57. The number of moose has been growing provincially, but in Renfrew County and the adjacent areas the opposite is true.

"The story isn't good," Mr. Bonnenberg told Renfrew County Council last Wednesday. "Despite the tag system we have, the moose aren't as responsive." He said the decline in the moose population can be attributed to a number of factors. "They are really susceptible to the moose tick and we've had three bad infestations in the last seven years," he said.

He said the MNR does aerial surveys to determine the size of the population and the results are troubling. "There has been a dip in the capital of the herd," he said. "We've reduced tags fairly dramatically in 1995. In 1999 the herd was down by almost half." This winter the MNR sur-vey shows the herd is down by about 100 animals again. The herd is estimated at 76 calves, 307 cows and 181 bulls.

Mr. Bonnenberg said one of the problems he is finding is too many calves are being harvested so this limits the growth potential of the herd. MNR is asking for hunters to voluntary reduce their calf harvest for 2002. The entire MNR strategy is to have a five-year plan in place soon. The rehabilitation of the moose population in the affected areas is expected to take that long.

Mr. Bonnenberg said another factor in the declining moose population is when hunters get a tag they are more likely than not to be successful at hunting a moose. "Everybody here, they are just too good at hunting," he said.

Head Clara and Maria Reeve Bill Croshaw said he could just hear the groans and moans in his community on the reduction in tags.

He asked Mr. Bonnenberg if this will impact' native hunters as well.

"The aboriginal hunt is only one factor affecting the moose population around Algonquin Park," he said.

Mr. Bonnenberg said in Whitney, for example, 74 percent of calves were harvested, virtually depicting the growing population. "We are taking all the calves out of the barnyard," he said. "That impacts the future population."

He said the aboriginal hunt has made a difference because it now exists in the park. "We didn't have a hunt inside Algonquin Park 10 years ago," he said. "Now we do." "Aboriginal hunts is one of the factors," he added. "It isn't the only factor."

He said in the past they did have an agreement with the native community to only have a limited number of animals hunted in season.

"We didn't get an agreement last year," he said. "That was unfortunate. We are beginning discussions now for this year."

He said MNR remains hopeful it can limit the number of calves harvested. Mr. Bonnenberg said he wants a round table discussion on the issue with folks from the county, interested parties and the aboriginal people. "We have to start talking with each other about the future," he said. "We can't go on like this."

Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards Township Reeve Janice Bush said she was appreciative of the MNR looking at the effect a cut or closure of the moose hunt would have on outfitters. "It is just too bad this kind of consideration hadn't happened with the bear hunt," she said.

The only spectator in the county chambers was a man with a true interest in sporting issues, Alf Beck, the president of the Pembroke Outdoor Sportsman's Club.

"I think this is going to be a shock, to say the least," he said. " You are talking about 3,348 hunters applied for adult moose tags in Unit 48 alone." He pointed out this area, WMU 48, received 133 tags last year for over 3,000 applicants. This year the same area will receive six bull tags and three cow tags.

Mr. Beck broke down the other areas and the decreases experienced there. In WMU 55A last year there were 15 tags, and this year five. In WMU 55BV there were 26 tags and this years 3 tags. In the last area, WMU 57 there were 64 tags and this year only 10.

"This is a massive reduction to say the least," he said.

He pointed out WMU 48 encompasses a large area from Pembroke reaching almost to North Bay and also going southward in the Huntsville direction, although it does not extend this far.

"I'm a realist," he told the Leader later. "While 1 totally dislike what is happening, 1 think you can't disregard the abuse which has taken place."

He pointed out in some cases when a moose cow in poor condition is spotted by hunters without a moose tag, they will go find hunters who have one and it can be about 25 hunters converging on one animal.

He said one positive step hunters can take is to reduce the harvest of calves.

"What seems to be the story here is there are too many hunters converging on this area," he said.

Mr. Beck added hunting in the park has hurt the population. In past years, before hunting was allowed in the park, it was a supply base for moose, he pointed out. There was a large population in the park, and to keep it healthy, a lot of moose tags were given out by MNR.

"At one time there were 400 adult tags in Unit 48 alone," he said. "That massive supply is no longer corning out of the park." Mr. Beck said he could not place the entire blame on the aboriginal hunt.

"Would I blame the native people solely?" he questioned. "No, I don't."

He said MNR was wise to release the information on the decreased number of moose tags at the county council session.

"If it had been done in another forum, not at county council, it would have been an Algonquin native bashing" he said.

Mr. Beck said he is hopeful all parties will come to the table and discuss the issue. He said sportsmen should be represented, since they pay through their license fees to finance many of these wildlife management programs, including moose.

He said as far as the reduction in tags is concerned, he believes it will just send the moose hunters further afield to find moose. "If you are a moose hunter, you will just go where the tags are," he said. "This is just shifting people. This alone will not accomplish much."

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