Moose population questioned

The B.C. government responds to Chief Joe Alphonse's warnings that moose populations are crashing.

Responding to warnings by Tl’etinqox-t’in (Anaham) Chief Joe Alphonse that moose populations are crashing at an accelerated rate in the Chilcotin, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations says there is no evidence to indicate that there has been a drastic reduction in the standing crop of moose in the Chilcotin.

Alphonse recently issued a press release warning he’s fearful that if immediate action is not taken moose will be totally eliminated within the region. He challenged government to acknowledge the crisis and implement policy changes to assist the “floundering moose population.”

“Intervention is needed immediately. The leadership of the Tl’etinqox is calling for government representatives to step up to the plate and call a meeting with all resource sectors to hear from the people who are affected by this epidemic,” Alphonse says, adding the cultural dependency on the species is great and moose is considered one of the main staple ingredients in the diet of Tl’etinqox members.

Moose surveys done so far in the West Chilcotin suggest the moose population is doing well, says Rodger Stewart, manager of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations in the Cariboo Chilcotin.

“There may be some localized depressions, but overall the population is consistent with management objectives,” Stewart says, adding moose population surveys are still underway, but are to some degree being hampered by low snowpack and warm temperatures.

Staff will share the results of the population surveys with First Nations and public stakeholders once survey results have been compiled, likely about May of this year.

Stewart says there is no evidence of a material decrease in the moose population. If survey results should come to show that there is a reduction in moose populations in certain management unit sub-zones, the annual allowable harvest of moose may be reduced.

“In the unlikely event of a substantive reduction in the moose population, hunting regulations will be revised, and First Nations may be requested to curtail traditional use of moose,” Stewart says.

Alphonse and Stewart do agree, however, that the wolf population in the region is high.

Alphonse describes it as an “all-time” high with numbers that have never been seen before in the Chilcotin.

“Moose and wild horses are staying out in the open meadows for safety reasons as the wolves are constantly following these animals and picking animals off at will. You can cover all the ground you want. I guarantee you won’t see any moose or wild horses born last spring; you won’t even find the tracks of these young animals,” Alphonse says.

Stewart says there are many indications that the density of wolves is high.

“Information from First Nations and ranchers, people who frequent the land and hold substantive traditional ecological knowledge, certainly suggests high wolf densities,” he confirms, adding there has been a significant increase in the frequency of complaints from First Nations and livestock producers respecting the impact of high wolf populations.