The McLeod Lake Indian Band has joined the outcry against hunting moose cows and calves in their traditional territory.
In a letter sent Monday to Forests Minister Doug Donaldson, MLIB Chief Harley Chingee and Youth Councillor Jayde Durnleau say they are disheartened to learn that according to the 2020-21 B.C. Limited Entry Hunting Regulations Synopsis the number of limited entry hunting tags for the animals have been increased to 400 from 357 in 2019, a of which are to be issued within MLIB's territory.
"Given the vulnerable current state of moose within our territory, and the significant further impact that hunting of cow and calf moose will have on already depleted moose populations, MLIB is strongly opposed to any hunting of cow and calf moose in our territory," they say.
"We therefore request that the Province of British Columbia immediately, prior to the commencement of the 2020 hunting season, declare a moratorium on the harvesting of cow and calf moose in our territory."
Provincial government officials have stressed the hunt is limited largely to areas that overlap with habitat where endangered caribou herds are found. Of the 400 tags, 322 are within caribou recovery areas in the Parsnip and Revelstoke areas, up from 257 for 2019.
By lowering the count of moose in those areas, they say the number of wolves who target moose but also go after caribou as secondary prey will be lower. They also stress that the hunt is allowed in only 12 per cent of the land base where moose are found in B.C.
Chingee and Durnleau claim the hunt will in fact make caribou populations more vulnerable to wolves.
"Accordingly, the proper focus for protecting both moose and caribou populations within MLIB's territory, and across central to northeastern British Columbia, must be on predator management (for example by way of wolf culls) and other creative approaches; not increases in hunting tags for cow and calf moose," they say in the letter.
A study has credited the hunt for a return to growth in the populations of herds in the Revelstoke area but also found there was no effect in the Parsnip. Intensity of the hunts appeared to be the difference as the moose population was reduced by 80 per cent in Revelstoke and by 40 per cent in the Parsnip.
In 2019, estimated 73 moose cows and calves were harvested within the Parsnip and Revelstoke caribou recovery areas and a further six outside of them.
Guide Outfitters of B.C. have long been opponents of the hunt and hunts of anterless ungulates in general. In June, Central B.C. Liberal MLAs John Rustad and Donna Barnett issued a statement opposing the hunt which has been in place since 2004.
Speaking in the legislature on July 13, Barnett acknowledged the hunt was in place under the previous Liberal government, but when moose populations were far more abundant.
"Today we are facing a different situation. Moose populations are declining across the province, and without any public consultation, this government is adopting an experimental moose cull policy," Barnett said.
In response, North Coast NDP MLA Jennifer Rice said the government has decided to follow the advice of its experts.