Southern Lakes moose show signs of recovery

Counting moose ain't easy. Just ask Shawn Taylor, Yukon's regional biologist for Southern Lakes. He oversaw a helicopter survey of the moose population south of Whitehorse this month.

Counting moose ain’t easy. Just ask Shawn Taylor, Yukon’s regional biologist for Southern Lakes.

He oversaw a helicopter survey of the moose population south of Whitehorse this month.

The good news: “We saw decent numbers of calves.” That’s a sign that the moose population is growing.

The proportion of bulls to cows was also “relatively good”- another sign of a healthy population.

The bad news: there are still plenty of places that ought to be prime moose habitat that appear bereft of the animals.

“The number of moose we see right now is relatively low compared to other areas in the Southern Lakes, and what we see historically,” said Taylor.

A census in 1987 put the number of moose in the Southern Lakes to be around 1,800. Another census done in 2002 showed the moose population cut to 800.

“It’s clear there was a drastic decline,” said Taylor. Hunting pressure, spurred by the widespread popularity of all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles, has widely been blamed for the decline.

In 1988, the territory introduced a permit hunt for Southern Lakes moose. First Nations have encouraged their members to exercise restraint to allow the moose population to rebound.

Taylor’s team spent a total of 80 hours flying in a grid pattern in search of moose. Spotters included members of the Carcross/Tagish and Kwanlin Dun First Nations.

They faced their share of challenges, the most obvious one being the recent dump of snow, which delayed flights on some days.

Bulls start to drop their antlers at this time of year, and that makes it harder to distinguish bulls from cows.

And moose are always on the move. In the winter the animals move to lower altitudes as winter progresses. These movements make it tougher to deduce the total population based on the samples spotted from the air. The team flew some areas twice to help control for this.

The number crunching hasn’t yet started. Taylor wouldn’t hazard a guess of when the population estimate would be complete.

The survey cost approximately $90,000. It will be used by the Southern Lakes Wildlife Co-ordinating Committee – which includes members from six First Nations, the Yukon and British Columbia governments, and Ottawa – to develop a management plan.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

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