The B.C. government is conducting a trial to reduce the moose population to help with caribou recovery and McLeod Lake Indian Band (MLIB) says that doesn’t align with their traditional knowledge.
“The practice of hunting cow and calf moose is being done to aid caribou recovery and our Indigenous knowledge, our traditional knowledge and the way have been hunting since time immemorial says that’s not correct, it’s not going to help,” says McLeod Lake Deputy Chief Jayde Chingee.
According to a B.C. report, Understanding Caribou Declines in BC, the population in BC has gone from 40,00 to over 15,000.
McLeod Lake says it wants both healthy moose and caribou populations.
They worked with the government to reduce the cow-calf moose hunting tags from 100 to 60.
McLeod Lake territory is located North of Prince George and has over 108,000 square km.
The band is working with Doug Heard, a retired wildlife biologist turned independent researcher who operates a feeding program meant to increase endangered caribou in the territory.
In an interview with APTN News, Heard says when he started in the area in 2014, there were only 48 caribou, but as of 2020, there were 98.
“The combined effect of feeding and wolf reduction has resulted in double the number of caribou in this population and in the adjacent population where we reduced the number of wolves but did not feed the increase hasn’t been quite so great,” he says.
According to Heard, the changing landscape due to logging has a long-term effect.
He says caribou numbers in the province have been on a steady decline for decades.
“They have been going down not crashing, but they been going down for decades and the wolf numbers don’t respond as the caribou numbers decline they are basically sustained by moose,” he says.
The government has been doing wolf culls as well to help caribou. McLeod Lake band wants that to continue, but they are also calling for habitat restoration.
The Ministry of Forests responded to an APTN News request for information with an email saying they are in talks with the First Nation.
“Discussions are ongoing with the McLeod Lake Indian Band regarding the few limited entry hunt (LEH) authorizations for antlerless moose that exist, “ the statement says.
They say that they have had success are increasing caribou numbers in multiple areas in the province.
“Caribou herds in the South Peace have increased by a combined 80% due to the effectiveness of multiple recovery actions, including the wolf cull,” the Ministry of Forests says.
Chingee also says his nation has questions over the use of herbicide – glyphosate.
Forestry companies use it but could harm the food supply for wildlife, according to recent studies.
The Ministry of Forests says that’s part of the on-going talks as well.
McLeod Lake says it doesn’t want the government imposing decisions without their consent.
Chingee says in the era of reconciliation with over 203 nations in B.C., including their knowledge holders in these talks is crucial.
“We need an amalgamation of Indigenous knowledge and western science, really at the end of the day, it’s going to be better for everyone having better outcomes for the public,” she said. “It will create education and awareness. Ultimately it’s going to be show partnership and collaboration between two governments at a time that we need it, at a time of truth and reconciliation.”