When we think of dangerous driving time on our NL highways, we usually think about the harsh winter months. All the slush, black ice, and whiteout conditions make it treacherous to even think about hitting the highways.
But when it’s “summertime and the weather is fine,” we’re not without our dangers. The fast and the furious are in full swing, passing you on that solid line just to get one car length ahead — and so is a big, long legged, thousand pound nuisance known as the moose.
Moose have become a lovable symbol, or even “mascot” of NL and our culture. It ranks right up there with the cute and cuddly puffin, and our badass carnivorous flower, the pitcher plant (Not bad for being a species that was introduced).
However, despite our cultural ties and tourists’ obsession with the ungulates, one cannot deny the damage in accidents these highway stragglers cause year after year, popping up from bushes out of thin air, staring blankly into the headlights, and hoping to all that is holy that you slam the brake pedal fast enough.
According to the Department of Environment and Conservation, our island has the highest moose population concentration in North America, with approximately 120,000 on the island portion alone. Each year, there are 500 to 600 moose vehicle collisions reported, with at least 5-10 serious injuries.
On the plus side, hunters in the province have an 85% success rate, with the province issuing between 15,000 and 30,000 licenses each year — what a slew of moose burgers!
The population has to remain sustainable over the long term, but with too high a number in any moose management area, it can cause the depletion of important dietary vegetation for the animals. Combine that with up to 600 accidents a year, and shouldn’t there be more licenses issued?
According to NL wildlife engagement surveys, there are definite regional differences in the importance of hunting and social priorities of the area. Folks on the Avalon indicated they would accept fewer moose and more licenses, in lieu of fewer highway accidents.
Meanwhile, those on the west coast, the Northern Peninsula, and the majority of central, felt an abundant moose population and successful hunting were to be prioritized. So, it basically comes down to another “townie vs bayman” disparity.
The province is currently in the early phase of a 5-year moose management plant, which began in 2015. Biological considerations such as reproductive rates and disease occurrence have also been taken into consideration when addressing the issue. To quote Jeff Goldblum in the original Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.”
Generally, the government has used passive approaches like reducing speed limits and roadside brush clearing. Active approaches would be actual removal of the moose from the high density zones near highway areas.
As for what we all deem to be the simplest solution – highway fencing, the Department of Transportation and Works states, “more data collection needs to be acquired” before it’s proven effective in mitigating the moose vehicle collisions. Suffice to say, more dollars need to be “acquired” as well.
Article by Intern Kayla Noseworthy