Moose Program Stirs Criticism

By author of The Duck Blog

Hunters Given Free Flights to Remote Areas of Newfoundland National Park

A Newfoundland park paid 30,000 to fly moose hunters to remote areas, and some taxpayers are upset. Photo © John HafnerBeing selected to hunt moose in a national park and receiving free flights to do so might seem like the outdoors equivalent of winning the lottery.

However, someone has to pay for that good fortune, and that’s stirred controversy in Newfoundland.

According to a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. article, a pilot project at Gros Morne National Park cost the park about $130,000 to fly hunters in by helicopter to kill moose in remote areas. Moose are considered an invasive species in Newfoundland and have damaged vegetation in many regions of the park. Still, some observers wondered about the program's price tag.

"This is an expensive, expensive proposition," George Feltham of Eastport, was quoted in the CBC article as telling The Central Morning Show.

"We have outfitters in this province that’s probably equipped to do that. Yet they're taking tax dollars, that … you contribute and I contribute, and paying for someone to go moose hunting.”

The park selected 50 hunters from a pool of 200 applicants during its 2015-’16 hunting season, which ended Feb. 7, the CBC report said. Hunters were allowed to bring an assistant, and helicopters flew the teams into otherwise inaccessible areas some mornings and then out in the evenings, along with moose they’d killed. Park officials say the program is the only way to target critical areas where high moose populations are damaging forests.

"We’ve got lots of little nooks and crannies that are kind of tucked away, given the size of the park, that really aren't accessible to hunters," Tom Knight, acting manager of resource conservation with the park, said in the CBC story.

Moose aren’t native to Newfoundland but were introduced in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Gros Morne National Park has allowed moose hunting since 2011 to combat deforestation, the CBC report said. Overall, hunters have removed 2,500 to 3,000 animals, resulting in about a 30 percent decrease in the moose population.

"We started at extremely high densities," Knight said in the article. ”In areas where we see that regeneration happening, we know we've reached a density of moose that's probably OK. We've got healthy moose and a healthy forest. So we're trying to get to that balance."

The helicopter initiative removed 46 moose during the 2015-’16 season, the CBC said. The park will now evaluate the impact of the hunt before deciding whether to continue the program.