I have always loved our CB Highlands National Park and much of what is done there is cause for celebration. Park visitor numbers are up, new ideas are being tested and found to be positive, and steps are being taken to try to bring back the boreal forest – at a faster rate than nature does on its own. I just can't agree with the killing of moose in our national park.
After reading the Bring Back the Boreal Update in the December 13th Inverness Oran, I found there was very little detail with regard to our CBHNP moose harvest which recently ended on December 1st. Something which did, however, cause some disbelief was the fact that they can still call a harvest “humane and respectful” when using a helicopter in 88 per cent of the kills (2016 moose harvest survey results). Thus far, 122 moose have been killed – 37 in 2017; 50 in 2016; 35 in 2017.
In a CB Post story on December 8th: http://www.capebretonpost.com/news/local/moose-harvest-concludes-in-cape-breton-highland-national-park-168501/ about the end of this hunt, the same description was used for this harvest.
Another cause for disbelief in that story is that CBHNP doesn’t acknowledge what Gros Morne National Park ecologists, NS Dept of Natural Resources, and they themselves appear to know: the fact that black bears, and possibly coyotes, are predators of moose.
–According to the NS website: https://novascotia.ca/natr/wildlife/sustainable/mmoosefaq.asp#mm21, “In Nova Scotia, the black bear is the only known predator of moose. Black bear prey mainly on calves, but could attack old or injured moose as well...It has been suggested that coyotes may also play a role in moose calf predation.”
–In an article discussing a study of coyotes and moose: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/coyotes-are-moose-killers-study-finds-1.2224256, it states “...Coyotes may not have as fearsome a reputation as wolves, but a new study shows they are sometimes just as capable of hunting down and killing adult moose.”
–In a Hyperabundant Management Plan for CBHNP, “... reduced numbers of important prey items may have impacts on coyote feeding behaviours – possibly making them more dependent on human food and moose for survival.”
Black bears and coyotes exist in the CBHNP, and both are capable of killing moose. They are both listed in the CBHNP Basic Impact Analysis for North Mountain as species which occur there. Yet, we are repeatedly told by them that there is “no predation.” Perhaps by stating there is “no predation,” CBHNP can justify their target of only 0.5 moose per square km in the national park.
The CBHNP story line gets stranger still. In a recent article, it seems that harsh winter can negatively affect moose numbers because the PC conservation officer states “with no predation, except for the highland’s harsh winters...” However, on November 7th, the same individual stated that “... even the winter doesn’t bother them much – remember, they are a northern animal and are accustomed to winter conditions.” So, which are we to believe.
Another head-shaking moment came when I read the latest numbers about the moose population numbers. Now we are told there are “close to 5000 in Cape Breton with close to 40 per cent of those found in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.” That would now mean about 2000 moose there.
My ATIP research turned up interesting information regarding moose population numbers in the CBHNP. The population has been stated as being 1800 as far back as 2011. When trying to justify the population in a Hyperabundant Management Plan, the number used was “~ 2500,” with a target population of “<1000.” Now it seems there are about 2000 moose in the National Park. So, what can we believe? It is almost as if numbers are picked out of the air to suit the occasion.
Numbers can sometimes be made to appear in a way people want them to appear. For instance, the latest aerial survey information I could find through ATIP research for the national park included the CB highlands, and was done in March 2015 by CBHNP, with NS DNR. In the six months it took to share those numbers with DNR, there were discussions within CBHNP about the survey numbers. Some quoted comments with regard to survey data results were:
–“We are having a bit of problems with our new SCF method...we are getting lower numbers of moose observed overall...” (SCF appears to mean sighting correction factor).
–Regarding moose estimates, old school, it was stated “I played around a little bit.”
–“Confusing to change too many things at once.”
–“The more I look in to it, the more troubling the intensive data seem. Almost half the data are problematic...”
–“I adjusted the numbers in all sections that referred to the aerial survey results. The new numbers are the latest we came up with ...”
–“...we tested a different sighting correction factor this year and also did some work on improving the analysis. This has changed how we might report on the results in the future...”
How can anyone can have faith in the 2015 survey numbers ?
The “preliminary results” of the survey numbers were “...estimated 4775 + / - 1200 for the greater highlands ecosystem and 1750 + / - 500 for CBHNP.” Depending on how something is to be perceived, the variance could be added or subtracted. It seems that CBHNP has decided to portray the numbers in such a way that they show a hyperabundance of moose in the CBHNP at 1800 (or close to 2000 as was recently stated), and as a higher, rather than a lower, number in the CB highlands. But if one was to instead subtract the variance, there may be many fewer moose throughout CB and possibly no hyperabundance. It appears easy to use data to give a certain perception.
This whole situation reminds me of the tv advertisement about the apple – people can tell us over and over that it’s a banana, they can shout at us to distraction that it’s a banana, but the fact remains that it is an apple! We are repeatedly told the harvest is “humane and respectful” but how can it be with helicopters. We are repeatedly told that there are no predators, but we know that there are black bear and coyotes, and both are capable of killing moose. We are repeatedly given population numbers that make the moose “hyperabundant” but the numbers and their origins are far from clear.
When all is said and done, Parks Canada tells us what they would have us believe and they repeat it over and over again, but that doesn’t make what they tell us a fact.