Plan to save Southern Lakes moose gathers dust

The dire state of the Yukon’s Southern Lakes moose population was described in stark terms four years ago in a government-funded study.

The dire state of the Yukon’s Southern Lakes moose population was described in stark terms four years ago in a government-funded study.

If nothing is done, the once-thriving herd will continue to shrink, perhaps to extirpation.

Four years later, efforts to protect the herd have not begun.

The inaction of government angers Peter Percival, a longtime hunter.

He received a hunting tag to shoot a moose this year.

He doesn’t think he will use it.

“It would be unconscionable now,” he said.

“It’s not right.”

He hopes other hunters will exercise restraint as well.

But licensed hunters like Percival take few moose in the Southern Lakes region, south of Whitehorse. Only 11 hunting permits are issued, and, on average, only one or two hunters are successful.

Most moose in the area are believed to be shot by First Nation hunters. There is no limit to the number of moose that First Nation hunters may take. No records track the size of the native hunt, so it’s unclear how many moose are being shot today.

Moose in the area were once plentiful.

In 1987, the herd’s number was estimated at 1,800. In 2002, the herd’s size was believed to be 800.

That’s a 44 per cent decline.

The area was once the breadbasket of many hunters.

That was before all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles became widely available.

Suddenly, remote areas that could only be accessed by several days of hard hiking or skiing were only an hour’s ride away.

Moose became far easier to hunt.

In the early 1980s, as many as 100 moose were being shot in Southern Lakes each year.

The Yukon government reacted in 1988 by limiting the hunt by way of issuing a small number of hunting permits.

In 2004, the wildlife branch produced a poster that suggested that action was needed to protect the herd.

“If we do nothing, there will probably continue to be fewer moose each year for ourselves and our children,” the poster says.

The poster was never released. The government of the day sat on the wildlife branch’s proposals to curb the moose hunt.

Rob Florkiewicz worked as a regional biologist for the department of environment at the time.

The proposal was never adopted by government because of land claims being negotiated at the time, he said.

The government didn’t want to talk about limiting the moose hunt until those deals had been signed.

The Umbrella agreement was finalized in 1990.

Eighteen years later, the Southern Lakes Wildlife Co-ordinating Committee, which is the product of land claim deals, is supposed to begin work on a moose plan this autumn.

The committee will likely begin consultations this fall and winter, said Florkiewicz.

Why has it taken so long?

Until now, the focus of Southern Lakes hunters and conservationists was to restore the number of caribou in the area, said Florkiewicz.

Moose had been an afterthought.

Another reason is that, with land claims, wildlife decisions are no longer supposed to be made by a single government.

The Southern Lakes wildlife committee has representatives from nine governments: six First Nations, BC government, Environment Canada and the Yukon government.

“It takes time to get people around the table,” said Florkiewicz.

“We work together. It probably takes a big longer, but you end up with a product that’s probably more successful.”

The answer offers little satisfaction to Percival.

When he moved to the Yukon 30 years ago, parts of the Southern Lakes area teemed with moose.

In recent years he has returned to his old hunting spots, and “there just weren’t any.”

He wants the government to restrict the Native moose hunt. Land claims offer provisions to do so, for valid conservation reasons.

“What do you think we’re talking about?” he asked.

Florkiewicz replies that Natives must be onside for any management plan to work.

“This is a community problem, not a department problem,” he said.

Trapping wolves may help the Southern Lakes moose population. But it would take at least 20 years for the moose population to recover.

In order for the herd to rebound any quicker, limits would need to be placed on the aboriginal hunt.

If the First Nation hunt were limited, the moose could return to a healthy number, of about 2,000, in eight years.

Voluntary limits placed on caribou in the region succeeded in allowing the herd to rebound from a low of 300 to 1,300 animals today.

But limiting hunting is never politically popular. First Nation families, which often possess little, place a high value on traditional food.

Years ago one solution was to drive down the Dempster to hunt the Porcupine caribou herd. Now that herd is in serious decline.

There are lots of bison. But some native hunters are reluctant to hunt the animals, said Florkiewicz. It’s not part of tradition. The meat tastes different.

But, Florkiewicz acknowledges if nothing is done, First Nations may find they have won control over their traditional territory, but the land may be empty of animals.

Southern Lakes once had valleys where you could find 80 moose, said Florkiewicz.

Today, you would be lucky to see one, he said.

Calls to the Carcross/Tagish and Kwanlin Dun First Nations were not returned before press time.

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

A draft plan has been released by the Dawson Regional Use Planning commission on June 15. Julien Gignac/Yukon News
Draft plan released by the Dawson Regional Land Use Planning Commission

Dawson Regional Land Use Commission releases draft plan, Government of Yukon withdraws additional lands from mineral staking in the planning region

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Let them live in trailers

“I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city… Continue reading

X
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for June 18, 2021.… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs nine new COVID-19 cases, 54 active cases

More CEMA enforcement officers have been recruited, officials say

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read