The Bullwinkle Problem: Why the Capped Moose Licenses with Accident Rates So High?

Each year, there are 500 to 600 moose vehicle collisions reported.

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

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4 Comments

  • While the article indicates hunters have an 85% success rate, the provincial government’s Hunting and Trapping Guides (issued with licences) for the last three years indicate reported success rates as follows:

    2015 – 61.3%
    2014 – 62.3%
    2013 – 63.09%

    If close to 40% of moose licence holders each year are unsuccessful, it hardly supports a call for increased licences. It may also indicate moose population numbers are not as high as in the past. There have been deep cuts to provincial wildlife budgets and personnel so the ability to accurately determine actual moose population numbers has been decreased. Considering this fact and actual low success rates, should moose licences be increased? What was the author’s source for the 85% success rate?

  • I agree with you, DT about the deer!
    My statement of the population having to remain sustainable over the long term is referring more to the department of environment and conservation/government opinion.
    I tried to remain fairly neutral in this article….or, as best I could! ?

  • “The population has to remain sustainable over the long term”. Does it? Why?
    I believe we would be better off culling most moose to around 25% of their current numbers, and do a review that studies the viability of introducing deer to the island. This will give hunters something to hunt, and be a heck of a lot easier on our bumpers.
    Ever hit a deer before? I’ve hit speed bumps with more impact.

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