For the first time ever the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw (NStQ – formerly Northern Shuswap) are going public with concerns about over-hunting of moose within their traditional territory.
“Non-Secwepemc First Nations are harvesting cow and calf moose,” said Chief Ann Louie of the Williams Lake Indian Band and NStQ spokesperson. “These actions are unacceptable to NStQ leadership and we do not condone the harvest of cow and calf moose even amongst our own members.”
In addition to declining moose populations that have been identified within parts of the Cariboo, non-Secwepemc te Quelmucw First Nations hunters are disregarding protocol and hunting within NStQ traditional territory without the knowledge and permission of the NStQ governing bodies, Louie added. “Williams Lake Indian Band traditional territory is being heavily impacted because of its proximity to the city of Williams Lake and the high number of First Nations that live within the city.”
Presently the proper protocol for non-Secwepemc First Nations hunters is to contact the appropriate NStQ member community and request permission to hunt within their respective traditional territory.
Once an application is made, the NStQ bands of Williams Lake, Soda Creek, Canim Lake and Canoe/Dog Creek review the application and then issue a permit that designates that person or persons to hunt for a specified species, gender and period of time.
Without a permit those hunters are considered to be hunting illegally within the NStQ traditional territory and legal action can be taken under the BC Hunting Regulations.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, in an emailed response said ministry staff continue to review policy options on the question of First Nations hunting in another First Nations’ traditional territory.
First Nations individuals hunting outside their traditional territory are asked to abide by all other Wildlife Act requirements for resident hunters such as LEH requirements, open seasons, bag limits, gear restrictions etc., although would not require a hunting licence.
If any First Nation believes that unlawful hunting is occurring in their territory, the ministry encourages them to report the offence to the Conservation Officer Service, who will investigate and take action as appropriate.
“While the Wildlife Act does not specifically address these situations, we encourage First Nations to resolve any territorial disputes among themselves and to be respectful of each other’s traditions,” the ministry said.
Recent counts have shown a decline of the moose population by 60 per cent in the region.
“WLIB members have had the poorest year ever with moose harvesting. The majority of us that use the resource, including myself, did not get a moose last year,” Louie said.
“Community members take their role as stewards of the resources very seriously, no matter what it is. I think it’s critically important that we play an integral role in the permitting process, not only for us, but for hunters in general.”
If moose numbers are declining, then the number of permits should also be reduced, she suggested.
“It’s an opportune time for First Nations to become involved in a guardianship program where we can become directly involved in monitoring what’s going on on the land.”
Responding the ministry said NStQ is interested in pursuing an agreement with the province aimed at helping conserve moose, other wildlife and fish populations.
Work to date has focused on population studies and examination of hunting regulations in hopes of developing harvest allocations that better serve the needs of the First Nations.
To date no formal agreement has been reached.