It would be easy enough to stretch this editorial over a dozen pages had I decided to offer more observations on the ongoing shenanigans of the 2018 recreational salmon angling season, but we’re moving into hunting mode now, so our beloved Alces alces will saunter back onto centre stage this time before the progress made last year towards protecting this majestic creature begins to slip from our minds and is considered “good enough.”
It isn’t good enough, of course, but hopefully the small step our current provincial government took to curb the dwindling population – by reducing the number of resident hunting licences on the island portion of the province by 2,470 – continues into 2019 and beyond.
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The Liberal administration actually made a number of positive changes to hunting regulations within the past year, including lowering the legal hunting age, an updated program for hunters with a disability, plus earlier target dates for the big game draw. But there’s room for more – a lot more – and we can only hope that when officials begin discussions in the very near future regarding the 2019-2020 hunting season, they’ll “pick up right where they left off,” as we say.
So on behalf of the majority of hunters – moose and otherwise – in the province, here are some suggestions we’d like to be considered:
- Open and close seasons in every Moose Management Area (MMA) on the same dates. We’re not sure if this issue got lost in the shuffle when season dates were cut back, or if it was simply ignored, but we see no logical reason why seasons on the Avalon, Burin and Bonavista Peninsulas open three weeks later than across the rest of the province, yet they close the same time.
In continuing with that, end all moose hunting seasons in Newfoundland around mid-December to give the poor critters – particularly the young – a better chance to survive when there’s deep snow in the woods and trails, and snowmobiles on top of that snow, not to mention the advantage it gives predators. In casual conversations with hunters in recent years, I believe it’s safe to say that most would be satisfied with a season that opens the third Saturday of September and ends the second Sunday in December. That’s 13 weeks!
- Until science and surveys prove otherwise and/or the moose population shows clear signs of rebounding, continue decreasing the number of hunting permits issued. Cutting another 5,000 in 2019 – on top of the 2,470 removed from the 2018 allotment – would demonstrate a sincere commitment by government to the protection of this animal and the valued tradition it provides.
Possibly having to wait another year for tags as a result of additional cuts isn’t a matter of life or death for any of us.
- Make it mandatory for hunters to send in their big game returns, which would be of great value to the “count” process and research in general. We aren’t suggesting anybody should be removed from the draw altogether if they fail to do so, but until these returns are filed with the Wildlife Division, hunters would not advance in the pool, whether it takes two years or five to finally send it in. It won’t be long before we get the message.
- Bring back staff in all divisions involving wildlife (and inland fisheries). With each upcoming budget, workers nervously wait to see if their jobs will be eliminated, and in many cases they have reason to be concerned because it seems anyone and anything to do with the outdoors is usually first on the chopping block. How quickly the axe-men and women forget the economic and social value these resources provide. And the few employees who manage to hold on to their jobs each year are still expected to provide the same level of service! How?
- Issue less either-sex permits and more male-only, or “baloney” licences that so many of us have complained about in the past when the population was in the 110,000-120,000 range, compared to the estimated 70,000-80,000 today. Like the suggestion to cut back licences, this is proof – once again – that hunters are the main conservationists and why we’re prepared to make sacrifices for the good of the species.
- Remove abuse in the charity licence system. The majority of participants are indeed in this for the right reasons, but we can assure you, there’s more than just “the odd one” taking advantage. What happens is that somebody “representing” a charity group will shoot an animal, then contact a friend or relative – someone with a licence but not really interested in hunting for one – to rush in with their tags and take the quarters home.
If this isn’t rectified soon, legitimate charities will be the ones to pay the price.
There are numerous other suggestions to offer involving many species and issues – from snare wire for rabbits to a cull on cormorants to eel fishery bycatches to private choppers being used to spot animals for hunters – but for the immediate future, we’re hoping our moose ideas will be front and centre with decision makers.