Northwestern Ontario moose hunters may be disappointed this year, as the Ministry of Natural Resources is drastically reducing the amount of moose tags issued by 22 per cent in the region and almost 90 per cent in both the Thunder Bay and Dryden Districts.
The moose population across Ontario is down and based on their moose aerial inventory surveys conducted this past winter, the MNR has decided to cut the number of moose tags issued in Ontario from about 10,000 to 8,300 this year - a 17 per cent drop.
MNR wildlife biologist for the northwest region Brad Allison said there are several elements that could be causing the decline in population, including predation, harvest pressure, disease or parasites, thermal stress and also productivity - how many calves are born.
"All those factors can come into play in influencing shifts in moose population abundance," Allison said.
Moose populations always ebb and flow, Allison added, noting that in the early 1980s, the population in Ontario was around 80,000; about half of what they want the population to be at.
Presently, the moose population is about 105,000 in Ontario and 41,000 in Northwestern Ontario.
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The wildlife management units with the biggest declines in population in the region are WMU No. 8 in Dryden, which saw a 60 per cent drop, and WMU No. 13 in Thunder Bay; it saw a 13 per cent dip in moose.
The tag reduction isn't welcome news for the Northwestern Ontario Sportsmen's Alliance, but executive director John Kaplanis said it highlights the need for a new conservation plan to turn the moose population around.
"The hunting community of Northwestern Ontario values moose hunting very greatly. It's a huge socio economic boon to the region," he said.
"To see the population turn downward the way it has, we understand something has to be done quickly and the short-term fix unfortunately is a reduction in moose tags."
Kaplanis said the MNR needs to re-examine its management policy and the NOSA is willing to work with the ministry to develop a strategy.