Ontario's moose population in peril?

In my latest Outdoors column in SUN Media’s Pembroke Daily Observer, I discuss several springtime activities such as; wild turkey hunting, fishing for brook trout, being bear safe and perhaps most important, sifting through details and implications of the Ontario moose tag draw.

Thanks to our pal Keebler for sharing his thoughts and information on the 2014 Ontario Moose season draw which, by some accounts, may indicate a population be in peril.


You be the judge…



Area sportsmen busy gobbling up wild turkeys!

Jeff Morrison, the Daily Observer's newest columnist, offers up his take on the great outdoors.

Jeff Morrison, the Daily Observer’s newest columnist, offers up his take on the great outdoors.


With the start to the annual Ontario wild turkey season, gobbler enthusiasts across the Valley will be out hot pursuit of trophy beards and spurs.

For thousands of wild turkey hunters, April 25 marks the kick-off to another coveted spring gobbler season. Thanks to successful reintroduction programs dating back 30 years ago, wild turkey populations across the province have reached sustainable levels. As we have witnessed over the past few years, there are more bird sightings than ever in the valley and around eastern Ontario, and the hunt is improving each spring. The glorious gobbler has evolved into one of the most prolific and tastiest games species around, so you had better get used to them!

Although most hunters are aware, it is illegal to hunt turkeys within 400 meters of any place where bait has been deposited, unless the place has been bait-free for at one week. Bait is described as corn, wheat, oats or any other feed that may attract wild turkey or any imitation of such feed. Standing crops, crops stacked in accordance with normal farming practices and grain scattered as a result of normal farming operations are not considered bait. Following the rules is part of the game and it would be a shame to ruin a great hunt by pushing your luck. I wish local turkey hunters all the best and feel free to drop me a line with news from your area!

Moose tags way down!

Bullwinkle enthusiasts are scrambling to take part of the moose draw which runs until June 2. The province recently announced a substantial reduction in adult moose tags for 2014. The reduction, said to be approximately 18 per cent overall, is in response to a declining moose herd in northern Ontario, as noted by Ministry of Natural Resources winter aerial surveys. Some areas of Northwestern Ontario will see upwards of 88 per cent fewer tags this fall; which comes as a shock to moose aficionados. Hunters like Brian Houle, of Stittsville, are very concerned indeed and left with more than a few questions.

“Why didn’t the MNR implement measures a few years ago?” says Houle, who hunts WMU 37. This hunter wonders what effect predators have had on the province’s moose.

“Bears have been unregulated for 15 years since they took the spring hunt out,” Houle adds. “North of the French River you need a tag for wolf/coyote and only a maximum of 2, what is the impact of those packs on moose?”

With the current state of Ontario moose, Brian Houle is considering Quebec this year to give our province’s moose population a chance to rebound. For more information on the tag draw: http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/OC/2ColumnSubPage/STDU_131065.html

Scribe heading for trout

In a couple of short weeks as I head off on my annual trout fishing adventure with my dad and brother-in-laws, my head will abuzz with visions of tall trees and behemoth brook trout. It doesn’t really matter how far from town you travel, so long as you bask in Mother Nature’s eternal glow. Enjoying the peacefulness found in a delicate call of the white-throated sparrow, or the courtship ritual of the common loon. Playing cards and horseshoes and scouting the backwoods trails on ATV are part of the experience. For all the avid trout anglers in the Valley, here’s to tight lines, bent rods and brookies over three pounds!

Being bear safe

When travelling in bear country this spring, be sure to keep your wits about you. When portaging up north during the trout season I always carry a can of bear spray and, although I’ve never used it, it is always at the ready! Statistics show there are a dozen or so bear attacks in North America each year, and some of which don’t end well. Bear spray can be purchased at local hunting and fishing stores and, keep in mind, that there may be some paperwork to fill-out. Bear spray provides a bit of extra insurance in bear country.







34 thoughts on “Ontario's moose population in peril?”

  1. The sooner our government addresses the issue of native over-harvesting moose, the better the population will be. It baffles me why some of our native Canadian population who either know nothing at all about conservation or choose to ignore it.

    And before all you self righteous native supporters jump on me and suggest that I am racist, just hold your knickers for a second and read what I wrote. I’m not suggesting that the entire native population abuse the system but there certainly are many who do and those are the ones who need to be punished then educated.

  2. I agree with you Trapper. I’ve seen the abuse first hand. Another problem is the
    miss use of native cards. I know lots of people who have them, why they have them I have no idea, they should have to apply for a moose tag like everyone else.

  3. Its natives and white man … we have learned how to hunt them now. no one walks they all drive ATV, you can see them going up north .. guys i know spend about a grand for fuel, some got through 2 tanks a day! The moose don’t have a chance. Let the guys have their tags but make them walk on foot. Years ago it was a young mans sport now you see guys in there 70s shooting moose, there is nothing wrong with that but I bet years ago they would give out 100 tags and the guys would shoot maybe 30 now they give out 100 and they shoot 80 the odds are really on the hunters side now….Jeff, i sent you a email that was sent to me the other day.. It’s got some good info on why the moose tags have dropped This time the mnr has done there work.

    1. Thanks Chessy, I will try to upload those charts and graphs on the page above.


  4. Good point Chess, I’m not for a minute suggesting that this is the only cause but it certainly is a huge contributor. And I don’t blame the front line Conservation officers for the lack of enforcement. They have no support at all from the Government to tackle such a politically incorrect issue.

  5. I was up near Timmins over Easter, and had a chance to talk to one of the MNR staff that did some of the aerial surveys. Zone 28 which is near Timmins went from 457 tags last year, to 30 this year! That is a drop of more than 93%. It’s the same in many other WMUs, and the guy I talked to simply said that they did not see nearly as many animals as in years past. Ticks are also a problem. Did they react too late? Who knows. But if they’ve taken these steps, obviously something needed to be done and they have major concerns about the future of the herd.

  6. What’s depleting our moose herd here in the extreme nw is not the natives but the ONTARIO GOVERNMENT. They raise the Non Resident wolf licence to over $380.00 which includes a small game seal. Non residents would previous to 2005, hunt the wolf the first 2 weeks in September to coincide with the early September bear hunt. Then they close the wolf hunt during that time period. They (non resident hunters) don’t want to spend the $380.00 for a wolf license. Then they close the spring bear hunt (1999) which increased our bear population dramatically here in the northwest. The wolves and the bears are decimating our moose herd. We here in Area #8 have only 24 adult moose tags. We had 205 adult tags here in wmu #8 in 2013. The Ontario government is using the preditors to keep the ungulate population low. Governments way to stop hunting!!

    Lowering the moose permits will do nothing until we start managing the bear’s and the wolves.

  7. The goal of ANIMAL ALLIANCE is to shut down the hunting by humans. The ANTI’S are winning as they just lowered our adult moose tags in WMU #8 to 26 tags from 205 adult tags in 2013. The ANTI hunting movement believes wild animals should be for preditor animals only. The scary thing is the current liberal government is in their back pocket!!

  8. The natives think its us white man depleting the moose herd. This is exactly what animal alliance wants. They want all (Natives or white man) hunters blaming each other. It keeps them out of the limelight!!

  9. our tags went from
    5 for a bull
    4 for a cow
    6 for a cow
    9 for a bull
    so how does it help the populations by increasing the bulls by so much
    it just gets more licenses required to even have a chance
    Cash grab

    1. Iggy, evidently this cash grab has come back to bite everyone. As we know with deer in our area, all it takes is a tough couple of winters with predators out of control(bears, coyotes & wolves in the case of moose) and the population could take a major hit!

      Those factors, along with some others you guys have identified, and things could really be in peril.

      Not sure how things are on the QC side for moose this year, but the alternating tag system where ALL cows are protected every second year, has served them quite well over the past 15-20 years.

      Just sayin..


  10. Jeff, I wonder if you could inquire whether the moose surveys were done with an airplane or a helicopter. Quite often they will switch from helicopter to airplane to save money but the accuracy of a moose survey done from a fixed wing air craft is not as accurate as a rotary…

    1. OK Trapper, that’s crazy..back in the day, all transects were run with helicopter. How could you ever do it accurately with an airplane???

      It’s kind of like spotting grouse whilst driving 40 mph on an ATV!!


  11. I tend to agree with chessy in that atvs, utvs, gps, generators, and everything other advantage hunters use now is allowing more successful harvest ratios in places that have good populations. The moose really don’t have a chance and when you add other factors like habitat change, predators, and increasing deer populations. It all adds up and I don’t think it’s one single thing, but a combination of factors. The guys at the place I used to hunt haven’t seen a single moose in 3 years and we got moose there every year for the 10 years I went. We filled our tag and usually got bonus calves as well. Over the years we very seldom saw other hunters or many bear or wolf for that matter but the one thing we did notice is there has been ever increasing deer numbers. You can see it through the camp log books over the years regarding sightings and from the deer gang that used the camp. Some say that may be driving the moose out as well. Not sure. If we want to hunt moose in future we may have to go through some lean years.

  12. There are guys ghost tagging moose apps cause they have figured out the system .. they shot 5 bulls and one cow .. for 12 guys… tell me how any moose population can survive that crap? Let’s hunt them every other year and during deer season (most guys would shoot a deer first then wait for a moose)

  13. I’d have no problem with bulls only for a few years, but if you look in area 11A, you need more people (tags) to get a bull and less to get the breeder (cow)
    Someone is playing games, or they are failing to explain this to their customers….the guys that buy the licenses…..the payers!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Controlled calf hunts can allow managers to:

    • Increase hunting opportunity while stabilizing high density, increasing populations.
    • Help reduce the hunting pressure on adult bulls where the bull:cow ratio is below management objectives.

  15. I respectfully disagree, I know calf predation is high, but the more calves, the more that live to grow up and reproduce.
    Bull only does not stop the reproduction, untill maximun production is reached.
    I’m not suggesting higher bull kills, keep the bulls at a level that full reprodution is possible.

    1000 calves, normal predation 700 and hunter kills 100= 80% = 200 survivors
    1000 calves, normal predation 700 no hunter kills 100 = 70% = 300 survivors
    you can’t tell me that every calf wouldn’t have survived, especially after 8 months of survival

  16. I don’t think the moose will bouce back until the spring bear hunt if fully reinstated, The Mnr put out a report a number of years ago about the large number of moose calves the bears took, I hear they are also hard on fawns. I have not been up moose hunting in 10 years. We don’t have the numbers to get a tag, Went up to area 28 with my Dad for about 25 years. He’s 84 this year, I know he’d go on anther moose hunt, But what’s the point without a tag. I’m not driving that far to shoot partridge.

  17. Jeff did you hear about the moose the MNR shot in Peterborough ? Apparently it may have been suffering from brain disease and was infested with tics…Story in the Examiner

    1. Trapper, brain worm used to quite prevalent…we had several cases back home about 15-20 years ago. Any forests where moose and deer share the same habitat are at risk..didn’t realize you had that many moose around Peterborough. Is this something new? North of town..Minden, Bancroft always seemed to have moose tho…

      If you’ve never seen a moose in final stages of deer brain worm..it is not a pretty sight!


  18. There’s lots of moose in WMU 60. Getting a tag is a bit of a challenge.

    If Cow’s have twin calves is any indication of a healthy population then I would say that the moose here are not. I’ve yet to see any sign of twin calves. There are lots of good sized bulls around but the cows seem to be on the smaller size. As for their diet, it’s not the traditional maple and berry cane buds. In fact I’m not quite sure what they eat (outside of cat tail roots)

  19. now that the spring bear hunt is in order.. they can now cancel moose hunting ever other year and those outfiters up north will still make the same money… and we all know its all about the money

  20. Well Jeff i’m going to have to wade into the moose debate because we have seen or should have seen this coming long ago. There can be no doubt that increased predation by both bears and wolves/ coyotes is part to blame. Another very big part that will be to blame is the affect the natives have on them. There are countless stories of over harvesting by natives who use the (cerimoneal right ) as the reason. Now don’t get me wrong. I do believe in the right they have…But if this is so spiritual as they say then why are they not required to use the same methods as there ancesters to harvest them ie: bow and arrow, or spear,canoe and paddles not boat and motor. horse or foot not atv or truck. Why should they be allowed to use the white mans tools and if that is what they want to use then they should follow the rules the white man must follow. Just wait and see what happens when the government gives them 1/3 of the province and three hundred million. Who do you think is going to look out for the animals then.

    1. I tell you, its not just ON moose that have taken a hit…up in NW QC this past week we saw the least amount of moose we’ve seen in many years. Used to moose
      hunt in that region for many years and numbers appear to be dropping there as well…


  21. Certainly not the anti’s because, do you think they are stupid enough to confront a bunch of armed natives when are own police and CO’s can’t or won’t. And once they decimate the herds and net out the lakes they’ll find some way to blame the white man again. How many hundreds of millions has the government handed over to band councils and still they cry foul. I’m sorry but i foresee dire times ahead for wildlife in Ontario as a result. But don’t worry the CO’s and police will check every white mans license and see if you might have had a beer in the last 24hrs and search your vehicle thoroughly in case you might have 1 fish to many or something stupid like that so they can give you a good fine or better yet confiscate your belongings.


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    please enlighten me on how and why the MNR managed to increase the number of hunters for guaranteed tags..
    I cant believe that, given the time of year they evaluate the moose populations in wmu’s it would have affected the numbers that abruptly.
    this is seemingly more and more of a blatant attempt to make it extremely difficult for modest income people to aspire to this recreational activity. Their are almost zero wmu’s that allow for a low number guaranteed tag. and yet the MNR still increases the price of the tags and increases the distances and the costs one must travel just for the chance to hunt moose…
    this is appearing to be more of another government grab and the taxpayer gets absolutely no value for his or her dollar..when you consider the average group size is now about 7.6 or say 8 thats an investment for the group of over 400 dollars just for one tag and no one has even left home yet.. The only one I see profitting from this is the MNR, at 400+ dollars per tag average for gauranteed tag with 5970 bull tags available thats around $325000 in revenue just from the sale of bull tags take into consideration the cow tags available of 4685 that totals over $250000,over a half million dollars just for tags. and thats just for residents….not outfitters.take into consideration just the number of applicants that apply as pool 1 choice 1 and pool 2 choice one from last year thats a total of 94551 applicants now at $54.57 also translates to a HEFTY 5.1 MILLION plus. I think this is getting out of hand….if an increase like this is necessary it should be explained in the hunting regulations with a justifiable reason not just shoved down our throats.

    I have no problem with a governing body managing our natural resources to maintain biodiversity but, judging by the increase of this year this isn’t managing, its control.. it does nothing more than force more people to choose not to hunt because of cost and also depletes income for northern communities that benefit from southern district residents hunting in their region..
    I think the managing is getting out of hand and has now become more about controlling the number of hunters instead of the populations of game all the while lining the pockets of government… I am sickened with the annual increases of cost and decreases in opportunities and all with no explanation as to why….costs to the consumer go up and yet all the MNR has done is cut and take more money for fewer services rendered.
    I believe as a hunter I should be entitled to an appropriate explanation that would justify me even considering to buy a tag to ever hunt moose again… you haven’t increased opportunities for all residents who wish to hunt, only for the select FEW that live close enough to not incur the astronomical costs of travel, lodging and food or for the well to do that cost isn’t a factor….

    Please explain to me the…

  23. the reason why the numbers went up and lets see how my dollar is working for me and other people who hunt as well as the benefit to population management of moose because i surely don’t believe i am the only person that this is leaving a bad taste in the mouth…..
    The MNR cancelled the spring hunt for bear and we believe it was aniamal activist motivated and the MNR trying to silence the squeaky wheel and this is seeming more of the same thing… Of course I dont expect the explanation of activists groups forcing the hand of governing bodies but people arent nieve.. We know this happens…


  24. lots of moose just 2hour driver from port hope and they even raised the number of bull and cow tags in our area… if the population drops its your problem to move . it’s a no win situation for the MNR let you guys keep hunting and killing all the moose or cut the tags down … have talked to many a group of hunters in the last few weeks and they all say from when they started hunting with there dads since the 2 licence per moose was and every other year … basically since the tag system .. they have improved there success rate dramatically … and all the electronics… it even works for fishermen … it is nearly a 30 % increase in walleye creel with people that use electronics and people that don’t on the ice… and when you start taking 30 % more fish from the lake … it is more than the system can handle

  25. LOL, I will call all of you out on what you believe to have witnessed…
    I am first nations. I hunt moose EVERY year. My average is 1 moose per 3 years…
    I have a hunt camp, and I hunt when my step dad can (Non native).
    That ONE moose I kill every year get’s split amongst 4 hunters. (So me and my dad gets half, my 2 cousins get the other half. Out of out half, it feeds my parents, my grand parents, my sister, her BF, and her 2 kids, and my GF, and our 3 kids. We don’t ONLY eat moose, but that is ALL that our area has to offer. 0.65 moose per 10 square kms. We are in Quebec by the way. What affected moose, especially in the PREVIOUSLY high population areas, is the winter tick. (Temiscamingue.) Also, in MY area, the ministry of natural resources did a “selective cut” which took 97% of the trees. Now the moose is gone, and we now have deer. My family don’t eat deer, so we don’t hunt them. I feed deer in my yard actually. Know what though? NO ONE, not even the game wardens, know that I am native. For every native you “witnessed” abusing their card, you did NOT see 10 of them hunting like everyone else. I will admit, I do not pay for tags. I do for fish, because they raise them indoors to keep population up. But I don’t pay for tags for moose.
    Seriously, HUNT with a few native families before saying you KNOW, because you WITNESSED the natives being to blame. I am NOT the exception. I know ~30 native hunters, out of them, I know 3 of them that abuse their cards (Fishing with nets, and hunting, then reselling a SPARE moose.) It’s actually FAR more of an educated guess for natives to blame white society for building housing projects extending further and further north, pushing the moose away. But scientifically and statistically speaking, ticks are the leading cause, followed by miss management of resources (Clear cutting). I got pictures of before and after of my hunting grounds. Furthest shot before ~100 yards. Now I am at over 600 yards from my blind that I can see!!! I actually bought a 7mm so I can shoot that far. Selective cut my butt, I have 14 trees left around my cabin. No wonder why I have no more moose, and now see deer tracks, where there was NEVER any deer before.

  26. Holy mack I trapped hunted n fished for over 55 years on hunting grounds where my great grandfater hunted over 100 years ago, all the time I trapped saw or heard wolves or coyotes very few times. Maybe saw one on frozen lake? Now they live in my yard, kill my dogs. Mnr was very successful in their wolf breading in algonquin park that I live beside. Nothing has a chance to servive with this kind of thinking, I see or hear wolves every day? Yep moose are way down, and so are deer in this area, moose tag system is a joke,, when you give out tags now for calves ahead of adult hunt n then exspect a calf to servive with out its mother you have a severe mental problem in your thinking. Stop blaming the natives for something as a ont voter you have say in!

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