Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Mighty Moose of Cape Breton


Moose (Alces alces) are the largest living members of the deer family in the world.  Here on Cape Breton Island they are in abundance.  This is not true on mainland Nova Scotia, where the moose has been officially listed as endangered and presently numbers less than 1000 individuals.

During the 1600's, with the onslaught of European settlers, the fate of the moose and caribou population, as well as the timber wolf, was sealed.  Overhunting as a result of greed, mismanagement of land use (including gross negligence resulting in massive fires), and the introduction of the white-tailed deer (they brought the 'brain worm' to the territory) caused the extirpation of the caribou and timber wolf, and all but wiped out the moose population on Cape Breton Island.  Records also indicate that by the early 1800's, the Micmac Indians became so outraged by the exploitation of the moose by the white man that they slaughtered up to 10 times more moose than they needed for their own survival, rather than leave them for the white man.

By the turn of the 20th century, moose on Cape Breton Island were all but extinct.  During the 1940's, a western species of moose was reintroduced to the highlands.   18 individuals were released, and by the 1960's their number had only increased to approximately 100.

In the late 1970's, the spruce budworm devastated the balsam fir forest of the upper plateau of the Highlands.  The regenerating forest has provided an abundance of high quality of winter food, for Moose love young fir best, and the opportunity to graze this prime habitat, and the absence of the wolf, has allowed the moose population to grow to its current size of approximately 5000 animals.

When food becomes scarce, as it often does toward spring, moose will strip bark from trees.

In summer, they vary their diet with leaves, some upland plants, and water plants in great quantity.  I was quite surprised to learn that Moose are quite at home in the water and can dive up to 18 feet or more for plants growing on a lake or pond bottom.

 However, once the animals reach such high densities, they reduce the ability of the land to support them through their destruction of successional stage browse plants in their winter range.  Some areas of Cape Breton are in jeopardy of being overgrazed as the population of moose has grown to five individuals per kilometer, the ideal being two.   In other words, they are eating themselves out of house and home!

Presently, 300+ moose hunting licenses are distributed each year by a lottery drawing, and moose country has been divided into four zones with three designated fall hunting seasons in an attempt to control this growing population.  To the best of my knowledge, the Micmac Indians are allowed to take moose, as needed, throughout the year.

To quote from a publication put out by the Canadian Wildlife Service in conjunction with Hinterland Who's Who - "Moose in many regions will be kept from starvation only if most Canadians understand that population control is essential for the health of the species."

This is my world.  Take a few minutes to check out other My World entries by clicking here!!


EG Wow said...

Humans have been destroying the Canadian environment ever since the arrival of the white man. But I had no idea First Nations people had contributed to the problem!

Population control will be overseen by humans. I hope they are way wiser than those who have gone before us. :)

The Early Birder said...

A very informative post Karen. Population control of nature by humans but who controls the human one!!

ksdoolittle said...

EGWow, thanks for stopping by. I don't have much confidence!

Early Birder, how right you are. There is no control over those who have that sense of entitlement that gives them permission to violate the regulations or look the other way. And they number many! Glad you stopped by.


walk2write said...

They're magnificent animals, and it's wonderful that people are finally starting to realize how quickly the population balance can shift. Somehow, whenever I see a picture of a moose, I hear that cartoon voice in my mind--Bullwinkle--announcing the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show:)

Anonymous said...

Its an amazing animal Karen, thanks for the informative post. (These European settlers have a lot to answer for)

Sherrie said...

I have never seen a Moose up close in person, but they are beautiful. Thanks for all the info. Have a great day!

Food for Thought

Steve Borichevsky said...

Interesting post. When I grew up in Vermont, moose were unheard of. I moved out west and returend for a visit in the early 90's and saw my first moose crossing sign along the interstate. I thought that they were nuts, but come to find out that the moose had been moving south into Vermont.

Deer prefer the open fields and we we used to count hundreds of deer on an evening's drive. As the 70's and 80s progressed, it seemed that the herd was reducing. I feel that the reforestation of Vermont has been good for the moose yet the deer heards are not nearly what they were in the early days of my youth.

Carver said...

This was an excellent post. So much great information and good shots too.

Squirrel said...

Nice informative post!

Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I love wildlife, and I think moose are just too cute. Deer too the bark off some of out trees one winter as well; great shots.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Karen: I would love to visit with a moose, great photos.

A piece of news said...

Very informative. Moose seem so ungainly, but the shots look great.

Rambling Woods said...

Interesting information that I didn't know..I always feel sad when the answer is hunting....Michelle

Robin Robinson said...

Ahhhhh, for a moose by the sea! Wonderful shot!