CBC News

'Gotta get your moose, b'y' getting harder as N.L. prepares to cut back licences

Minister Gerry Byrne says hunters, outfitters and groups all reporting declining moose numbers

Newfoundland and Labrador could soon be cutting down on the number of moose hunting licences it gives out.

Gerry Byrne, the province's minister of fisheries and land resources, is ready to take action after hearing feedback from hunters, outfitters and hunting organizations that the number of moose in the province is on the decline.

A licence for every 2 animals: Hunters say Newfoundland moose population at risk
"I think it's time to bring those licences down," Byrne told CBC Radio's On The Go. "It appears to me that there's a widespread agreement – if not demand – for that to occur."

His comments come following reports of declining moose, specifically on the Northern Peninsula, and a CBC story this week where a hunter found a moose riddled with parasites.

Announcement coming soon

Byrne said scientists are looking at the data now, and hunters can expect an announcement soon on how many big game licences will be issued.

He suspects that hunting pressure is the No. 1 cause of declining numbers, but can't talk specifics until proper research is complete.

The province is also looking to step up its moose survey efforts, after only three surveys were done last year instead of the usual five, which Byrne said was in part due to poor weather conditions.

"Our objective for 2018/2019 will be for five to seven surveys throughout the province, and then carry that on annually," he said.

Diseased moose

Some have raised concerns that moose numbers are down because the animals are eating white pine seedlings, or consuming insecticides sprayed by government near roads or during construction of electricity lines.

However, Byrne said those concerns are unwarranted as there is no widespread planting of white pine in the province or large scale use of pesticides.

"The province does not carry out forced pest control programs in a large scale at all. In fact, we don't do any," he said.

There have also been claims that moose in the province have been found suffering from conditions such as wasting syndrome or Johne's disease.

Byrne said the reality is that moose, and indeed any wild animals, sometime become ill.

He applauded people who bring diseased moose to wildlife officials to be tested, and said of the 38 sick moose that were delivered between 2003 and 2015, all died of explainable causes.

"We have not found any instances of wasting syndrome or of Johne's disease," he said.

"There are sick moose every year. I'm not trying to understate this, or minimize this, but the reality is that there are sick moose and that has been the case for decades."

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