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A Cape Breton girl’s online petition calling on the province to end the moose hunt is racking up thousands of signatures.
Zadie Targett created the change.org petition directed to Nova Scotia Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin on May 13. As of Wednesday, it had been signed by more than 2,200 people.
Targett, 12, said she learned about the decline in the Cape Breton moose population after watching a documentary and decided she had to try to end the hunt.
“Part of my home schooling, we were watching a documentary about the Cabot Trail and it was mentioning moose,” said the Grade 7 student at Whitney Pier Memorial Middle School. “Then we saw that they were still doing the moose hunt this year, and with all the decline of the population I just thought maybe I should start a petition about it. I didn’t think it would get this big but it did.”
The number of moose in Cape Breton has dropped sharply in the past five years, from an estimated 4,800 in 2015 to about 1,300 last year.
However, they appear to be rebounding. The most recent aerial moose population survey took place from March 2-16. Led by the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry in collaboration with Parks Canada, the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources and the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, it estimated there are 2,300 of the large ungulates roaming the western side of Cape Breton from Meat Cove down to Port Hawkesbury.
Department of Lands and Forestry spokesperson Lisa Jarrett said those numbers suggest the annual hunt can go ahead.
“Having up-to-date information on the Cape Breton moose population helps us make better decisions about how to sustainably manage the herd,” she wrote in an email response. “We conducted an aerial survey this winter and the data shows Cape Breton’s moose population numbers increased since the last survey. The population remains healthy in the highlands of Cape Breton, which indicate a sustainable hunt can be conducted.”
The province issues 345 licences to hunt moose each year with the winners selected through an electronic draw. The current lottery began May 11 and ends June 8. The winners will be picked June 15. The hunt is divided into seven seasons — from Sept. 28 to Dec. 8 — across five management zones, all located in Cape Breton but excluding the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
In the past five years, hunters have reported killing 1,074 moose, including 198 last year. Parks Canada has killed 138 moose in the park in the first four years of a five-year cull aimed at saving sections of boreal forest from becoming so-called moose savannahs.
The Cape Breton moose and mainland moose are two separate sub-species.
The mainland moose — Alces americana — is an endangered species and hunting them has been illegal since 1981. The original population of Alces americana in Cape Breton was completely wiped out in the early 1900s for unknown reasons. The current population can be traced back to the introduction of 18 Alces andersonii moose from Alberta in 1947 and 1948.
Rankin did not respond to a request for comment but Targett said she hopes he reads her petition and reconsiders the moose hunt.
“I would really love to hear from him and I hope he considers making a change, because with climate change — harsh winters and hot summers — overhunting has actually contributed to the population going down,” she said.