The province is set to overhaul how it manages the declining moose population.
A new point-based tag distribution system that would replace the current draw, stand-alone licences and tags, and new calf harvest controls are among proposed changes announced Monday by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF).
The proposal is based on 15 recommendations provided earlier this year by the Big Game Management Advisory Committee after a consultation process that included surveying hunters and hosting open houses in May and June.
The report encouraged the province to focus on sustainability, make tag allocation easier, and address a range of hunters’ concerns.
Some changes would begin in 2020, including implementing interim calf tag quotas in wildlife management units (WMUs) 37, 40, 41, 42 and 47.
With direct controls on calf harvest, the ministry said it would extend the calf-hunting season to the full length of the moose hunting season.
Early bow-specific seasons and quotas in WMUs with an open moose hunting season where they don’t currently exist would also be created. The idea, the ministry said, is to convert some gun-hunting opportunities to bow hunting opportunities.
For 2021, the province proposes having bull, cow/calf, and calf tags with WMU-specific calf tag quotas across the province. Bull and cow/calf tags would generally be season-specific, but calf tags could be used at any time throughout the season.
Possibly the biggest change is that moose hunting licences and tags would also become stand-alone products – tags would no longer come with a licence. This would allow applicants who do not get, or apply for a tag, to party hunt on another hunter’s tag.
The current moose tag draw would also be replaced by a new preference point-based moose tag allocation system that includes a “modest” application fee. It would eliminate the group application component of the allocation process, the ministry stated.
Tags would be allocated based on the number of points a hunter has accumulated. For example, they would get a point each year they have applied and been unsuccessful, going back to when they first started applying or the last time they got a tag.
Predation causes concern
The number of wolves seen during moose hunts and the potential impact of predation was among the concerns raised by hunters earlier this year.
As a result, the minister also announced changes to wolf and coyote hunting regulations including eliminating the tag requirement and introducing an annual bag limit of two wolves per hunter in 40 northern WMUs.
The government has also proposed expanding the coyote season to year-round in those WMUs, which is the same as southern Ontario, except for the period when small game licences are invalid in central and northern Ontario from June 16 to Aug. 31 each year.
Both proposals are now available online on the Environmental Registry of Ontario for public feedback until Sept. 26.
Polarizing opinions expected
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) has advocated for additional moose bow hunting opportunities and better management of wolves and coyotes in northern Ontario, OFAH Wildlife Biologist and committee member Keith Munro said.
“The other changes proposed by the MNRF will affect hunters from different parts of the province differently and we will likely see polarizing opinions as a result. The OFAH is fortunate to have an upcoming board meeting before the submission deadline, which will allow for full engagement of our membership through our (committee) and board of directors.”
Moose hunting contributes more than $205 million annually to Ontario’s economy, the ministry stated in a release.
“We are listening to moose hunters across the province, and our proposal is designed to work for the hunting community,” MNRF Minister John Yakubuski stated. “I encourage Ontario’s hunters to review the proposal and consider its implications on moose populations and future hunting opportunities.”