Moose Cull in Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Lia Laskaris Human Wildlife Conflict 4 Comments

A Sad State of Affairs

This is the first in a series of posts about the moose cull in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

By Rose Courage, Guest Blogger, resident of Cape Breton, NS

A recent Google search for information on a moose cull resulted in my finding an article which stated that hunting is permitted in “20 of the current 40 national parks and reserves across the country“.  Other search results discussed culling of cormorants, and more recently I discovered that deer are also culled at Point Pelee National Park. Culling of elk is being strongly considered at Elk Island National Park in Alberta.  Culling of moose has been going on for years at Gros Morne and now Terra Nova National Park, both in Newfoundland. Culling of moose is also taking place on North Mountain at Cape Breton Highlands National Park (CBHNP) since 2015.

ParksCanada-CBHNP-orignal-moose2Our National Parks were created to protect wilderness areas for the people of Canada, and to provide places where animals and plants were protected from the threat of human development.

Note the word “were”.  Sadly, with the culling of wildlife in our National Parks, killing by lethal reduction, it appears that instead of sanctuaries, they now too often can have the appearance of killing fields.  The killing, however, is hidden, as much as possible, from public view.  We pay for it, but are not told about it or allowed to document it.

Since the first moose cull was announced for the CBHNP, I have been reading letters, articles, media releases, and Access to Information and Privacy or “ATIP” documents closely.  I have also been following up with my own media submissions because there are many things that don’t add up in the Park’s justification and operations for the moose culls.

For example, the ‘project’ to kill moose on North Mountain is conducted over a period of about four to six weeks.  It is carried out by First Nations ‘harvesters’ and involves the use of a helicopter to locate moose using GPS points, to transport ‘harvesters’ to those GPS points, and to sling out moose that are killed, taking them to a staging area.  Helicopter usage has been involved in up to 88% of the moose kills.  The area on North Mountain was chosen because of its easy accessibility and grassland, so one is left to wonder why the heavy dependence on helicopter usage?  The moose have little place to hide here, giving this ‘project’ more the appearance of a slaughter than a cull.

Although Parks Canada states that this cull mimics a natural predator, I cannot agree.  A natural predator normally kills very young, old, sick, or injured animals – and only what it needs to survive.  However, in the North Mountain cull, all moose are killed indiscriminately — healthy animals, both young and old, males, pregnant females with unborn fetuses, young calves, and juveniles.  If it can’t run or hide, it is killed.  The purpose of this cull – harvest – population reduction – appears to be killing as many moose as possible in a specific amount of time.  The terminology has changed over the years, trying to give what is being done a sanitized appearance, but the actions speak for themselves.

While Parks Canada continues to cite the issue of disappearing forests and changing ecology, there is a lot to doubt about their supposed 15 or more years of “scientific evidence”.  In my research through ATIP and Parks Canada documentation, I have been unable to find 15 years of studies or reports to support their argument.  What I have found, however, is that the “around 1800” moose population, has been quoted since before 2014.  This number of 1800 conveniently appears to make the moose “hyperabundant” in the Park, and remains largely unchanged to this day in the Parks Canada propaganda.

So what has this Parks Canada cull accomplished?

  • The CBHNP moose cull has been happening since fall of 2015, in a 20 sq km area on North Mountain, and has resulted in 122 moose being slaughtered indiscriminately.
  • It is being done as a so-called experiment, which was partly based on flawed science that wrongly assumed that moose would not move from an area of high density to low density.
  • It is promoted as “traditional and cultural”, even though GPS and a helicopter were used in about 88% of the kills.
  • It is being done with the possible intent (mentioned many times in ATIP documents) to reduce numbers of moose throughout the whole Park – by as much as 90%.
  • It is being done at a cost to taxpayers of around $1 million dollars – the Parks Canada and RCMP costs associated with the first two culls was more than $775,000, and I am still awaiting the costs of the most recent 2017 cull.

It appears that our National Parks are becoming a kind of killing field …killing wildlife that was once protected.  Ironically, across North America, many populations of moose are in serious decline.   Using lethal reduction once was a last resort of wildlife management, but now seems to have become the method of choice.  An Animal Alliance of Canada report about wildlife in our National Parks states, “The most significant threat….are the very agencies charged with their protection.”

And in a 2017 article from Sherwood Park News, “the government does its own thing and doesn’t consider the opinions of professionals on the outside.”    …This is probably the worst wildlife agency we’ve had in the last 25 years.”

Human intervention appears to have superseded the laws of Nature in the eyes of Parks Canada, and things might only get worse if Parks Canada management does not change its thinking.

Comments 4

    1. I totally agree with you. At times, it almost seems that our National Parks would rather kill wildlife than take the time to try and find a more humane solution.

  1. this is the worst oversight body I have ever seen. the mnr used to be well funded. they once had maned out posts with trained people to monitor and protect wildlife. I’m so frustrated with this government. logging is probably the worst action on moose lifestyle. people will say it’s good as new growth offers a food source but that’s b.s.
    it offers an open area for wolves and hunters to make a kill.
    this govermemt makes these decisions with no credible info. they should be talking with hunters on what can be done to sustain wildlife numbers in all wmu’ s.

    1. I agree that government departments and agencies often make decisions without much consultation. With regards to the moose cull in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the decision to kill moose on North Mountain was made by a small group of stakeholders. The data used to justify that killing raises more questions than provides clear answers. In my next submission on this topic, I will provide more details about the problems with the data.

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