Saskatchewan moose population on the rise

by Phil Ambroziak

Moose are on the loose throughout Saskatchewan.

That’s why the provincial ministry of environment is doing its part to help control the moose population, something which has become a safety issue in some parts of the province.

“There are a couple of different kinds of concerns, mainly from folks who have ornamental trees such as apple trees,” explained Rob Tether, wildlife biologist with the ministry of environment. “There’s also been a lot of fence damage in the south with moose doing a lot more moving about in that area than before.

From a safety point of view, many highways have now been assigned moose signs, warning drivers of the presence of moose. Most folks don’t even think about moose, but it’s our hope they become a little more aware and be a little more vigilant while behind the wheel. If you hit a moose while it’s crossing the highway, it can have devastating results.”

Tether went on to note the increased moose population is something that’s been ongoing for the past several decades.

“We don’t have really good numbers because we’re unable to do official surveys – the numbers we do receive are anecdotal numbers from farmers and hunters,” Tether noted. “In the last 30-35 years, however, moose have been moving into areas further south, primarily farmlands with poplar bluffs and such. Prior to the 1980s, when moose would try to establish themselves in these areas, they were often shot for various reasons. Then, things started to change. Moose were being regarded as novelties and, many times, when they’d pop up in the back 40, landowners would start protecting them.”

Tether also said, when it comes to food, moose are able to feed on alfalfa, canola and peas, meaning there’s a huge food source out there for them.

“What some people don’t realize is, moose haven’t suddenly arrived in the farmland – it’s taken 30-40 years for the numbers to increase,” Tether continued.

“It just didn’t become that noticeable until the mid-2000s. That’s when concerns about public safety began to arise. So, in 2008, we established hunting seasons in different zones across the province. Complaints have increased over the years, so every year since 2008, we’ve increased the number of licence quotas per zone.”

The MOE began with 10-15 licences per zone, but the moose population remained high. Now, that number has been increased to 20-25 licences.

“In a majority of the zones there is a limited draw quota,” Tether said. “People have to put their name into a draw to have the opportunity to hunt. I don’t have exact numbers, but this year we’re looking at an increase of approximately 500 licences across the province.”

Two licences are available – an either sex licence, which allows hunters to go after bulls or cows, and an antlerless only licence, which allows for the hunting of cows or calves. Known as the big game draw, the season officially opened today (May 1).

“In the zones where there is lots of good habitat for moose, we’re going to try to manage those areas for an annual population,” Tether said. “But, in other zones, we will probably look at controlling numbers to help with public safety.”

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