A day after First Nations in B.C.’s Interior announced they were imposing a limited-entry moose hunt ban in their respective territories, the ministry of forests confirmed it does not plan to expand closures of the limited-entry hunt (LEH).
“In the Chilcotin, LEH hunting has been reduced by 60 per cent from 2011 levels,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development stated in an e-mailed response.
On Aug. 24, the ministry announced further closures and access restrictions were put in place, a move made after additional consultation with First Nations, the ministry noted.
“This government has a clear responsibility to protect and manage wildlife in the best interest of all British Columbians,” the spokesperson noted. “The province is committed to reconciliation and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.”
The government is continuing to sit down with First Nations governments to build a more lasting, collaborative approach to enhance moose numbers together.
“In the Cariboo for example, all resident hunting is managed through limited entry hunt (LEH), which is the most closely managed hunt opportunity, and throughout the Chilcotin, the LEH hunt is further enforced with compulsory inspection to confirm harvest information and inform management,” the spokesperson stated, noting the province’s data on moose harvest management clearly shows the LEH managed harvest does not lead to moose population declines.
Through a press release Wednesday, the Tsilhqot’in Nation and Southern Dakelh announced they were joining together to ban all LEH for moose within their respective territories.
A map included with the press release showed an area spanning from Prince George and Vanderhoof in the north, to Valemount in the east, west to just east of Bella Coola, and southwest of Willams Lake and 100 Mile House to areas surrounding Tl’esqox, Riske Creek, Tl’etinqox, Alexis Creek, Xeni Gwet’in, Nemiah Valley, Ulkatcho and Anahim Lake.
They cited the impact of wildfires making moose more vulnerable to hunters and predation, and that LEH permits were issued without their consent.
When asked about the impact of wildfires on moose populations, the ministry noted analysis of the effects of the 2017 wildfires are consistent with prevailing science that suggests wildlife populations are not significantly impacted by wildfires, and any wildlife mortality directly related to fires is considered to be outweighed by the long-term benefits of wildfire to habitat and wildlife.
The province does prescribed burns frequently in areas to improve wildlife habitat and thus benefit population growth, the spokesperson said, adding when the 2017 Plateau fires in the Chilcotin were aerially surveyed it showed ungulates remaining in newly burnt landscapes.
“In Zone 5-13A — 60 per cent of which was in the fire perimeter, surveys comparing moose densities before and after the wildfire showed moose populations remained stable.”
Additionally, surveys following the 2017 Elephant Hill Fire did not notice a change in moose numbers within the burn and some of the highest densities observed were within the burn.
Nevertheless, as a precaution, additional reductions to LEH in the Chilcotin were implemented to address the removal of security cover and the potential for increased hunter success as a result of the 2017 wildfires.
In 2017, the fall moose hunt was cancelled in Cariboo wildfire zones west of Quesnel and Williams Lake affecting an area north of Highway 20 and west of Williams Lake and Quesnel.