SELECTIVE MOOSE HARVEST IN NORTH CENTRAL ONTARIO - A PROGRESS REPORT
Ontario introduced a province-wide sex and age selective harvest strategy for moose (Alces alces) in 1983. The program was designed to double the provincial moose population by the year 2000 by controlling the annual hunter harvest of bulls and cows in 67 Wildlife Management Units (WMU’s). In north-central Ontario the harvest sex/age ratio has averaged 54% bulls, 28% cows and 18% calves in 14 WMU's after eight years. A step-wise increase In the calf kill and corresponding decrease in the cow kill has occurred. There appears to be a trend towards a higher proportion of breeders and a lower proportion of yearlings and teens in both the adult bull and cow harvest. Demand for adult tags and success rates continues to increase in many WMU's as hunters report seeing more moose. Aerial inventories since 1983 suggest that populations in WMU's west of Lake Nipigon have generally reached or exceeded year 2000 targets while those to the east have failed to respond. Data for two WMU's, one representing a population response and the other, relative population stability are analyzed and discussed. Population densities in these WMU's are believed related, in part to differences in winter severity and land capability. Densities in both have declined slightly since 1988 as current mortality rates from all sources exceed annual recruitment. Adjacent jurisdictions (Isle Royale and northeastern Minnesota) display similar trends to several adjoining WMU's, regardless of density, hunter harvest or the presence or absence of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Increased winter tick (Dermacentor albipictus) mortality, triggered by short-term changes in weather patterns in the late 1980’s, is believed responsible for synchronous population declines in northeastern Minnesota and on Isle Royale. It is possible that ticks were also involved in similar declines seen in WMU’s 11B, 13 and 14, although the evidence is circumstantial. We recommend current WMU population and harvest targets to be reviewed and adjusted to land capability; that lower and more flexible harvest rates will be tailored to sustain and local populations, and that further research on weather-related population changes can be undertaken.
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