STEADY BROOK — With over 40 years experience as a moose hunter, Larry Parsons has plenty of opinions about the current state of the species in the province.
Parsons was one of dozens of participants Monday at the Marble Mountain Resort in Steady Brook for the provincial government’s latest public consultation session on developing a five-year moose management plan.
Sessions have also been held in St. John’s, Clarenville, Marystown, L’Anse au Clair and Plum Point, with more to come in Grand Falls-Windsor and Port aux Basques.
Unlike typical public consultations, these sessions have participants form into small groups where they are asked to discuss a variety of topics and submit their input via a computer which is provided to each group. The questions range from such issues as the benefits of moose in the province to maintaining hunter satisfaction.
Parsons said the format made for some good debate. He said there were common themes and interests from the group he was part of.
“I’m sitting next to an outfitter and they have the same problem,” Parsons said Monday during a break in the session. “They don’t want to see the moose population down because it’s expensive for hunters in the States to come to Newfoundland. If they aren’t going to get a moose, they aren’t going to come.”
The moose population was a major concern for Parsons, who believes the government has spent too much time in recent years trying to drive moose numbers down, rather than paying attention to what’s really happening with the species.
“I don’t want to see them continue to decrease the population of the moose because I think that’s going down fast enough on its own,” he said, noting the closure of paper mills in Stephenville and Grand Falls-Windsor meant less clear cutting and thus, reduced suitable moose habits. “The government is making a knee-jerk reaction to the opinions of a few people. The government isn’t listening to the technicians.”
Statistics provided in a handout given to all participants appear to back Parsons’ claim.
After peaking at 150,000 animals in 1997, the moose population has seen steady decline to approximately 114,000 animals today. Despite the trend, the government’s moose quota has risen in each of the last seven years and included a 2011 quota of nearly 35,000 moose, the highest quota in the last 27 years.
While he admits he’s concerned about moose-vehicle collisions, he said he tends to slow down at night and would advise other motorists to do the same rather than looking for a solution from government.
For his part, John Blake, director of the Wildlife Division of the Department of Environment and Conservation, said the format of the sessions was designed to get diverse views from all those who have an interest in moose management.
“It’s informed discussion, it’s constructive dialogue,” Blake said. “There are benefits to having open sessions where people can just go to a microphone and say their view, but this is a more structured way of doing that.”
Through previous sessions, he said it’s becoming clear that there are regional differences in what people want to see, with people in places like the Northern Peninsula having a very different opinion about desireable moose numbers than those in St. John’s, for example.
He said while his department has a handle on the biological aspects of moose management, the sessions will provide a clearer view of the interests of the people when establishing quotas.
“We haven’t been very good at understanding the various views of people from across the province,” he said. “Having some mechanism to evaluate that in a fare, objective manner is what this session is all about. That kind of social input, along with the biological input and other factors we know of, will form a plan for the future.”