Moose management policy insane
For two decades officials have consistently blamed driver inattention as the primary cause for moose vehicle collisions.
By focusing on drivers rather than moose nothing has changed and motorists are still dying or being crippled on our highways at an alarming rate. Considering the fact that 80 per cent of moose vehicle collisions occur between June and October all indications are that this could be a very deadly summer on our highways.
Police have already confirmed four deaths and almost 100 collisions related to moose so far this year.
Under government’s current moose management policy of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) motorists are not considered in moose management plans.
Operating under 1970’s legislation, government’s mandate is to produce as many moose as possible to ensure a 70-80 per cent hunter success rate. Although this policy may have been justifiable 30 years ago when the moose population numbered less than 40,000 animals, in the fast paced world of the 21st century this policy borders on insanity.
With a moose population in excess of 140,000 and most of what was wilderness when this policy was enacted now riddled with forest access roads or other developments combined with a significant increase in motor vehicles, it is impossible for a moose to travel any further than a few kilometres without encountering a motor vehicle.
Other than suggesting that motorists scan both sides of the highway, government has done little if anything to address this situation. No doubt this suggestion works extremely well during day light hours. However since 80 per cent of all moose vehicle collisions occur between dusk and dawn.
The reality is that unless a motorist is travelling less than 50 km/ hr and wearing night vision goggles it is impossible to spot a moose before it jumps out of the ditch and onto the front of your vehicle.
The truth is, the primary cause for the rise in moose vehicle collisions is that there are just to many moose living within a few hundred metres of our highways.
The only solution to reducing the high number of moose vehicle collisions on our island highways is to significantly reduce the moose population and reduce the speed limit on our highways between dusk and dawn.
In 1989 there were 900 moose/vehicle collisions resulting in four deaths and 290 injuries. In 1990 government biologists Sebastian M. Oosenbrug, Eugene W. Mercer and Stephen H. Ferguson conducted a study on this highway chaos. The authors concluded that the primary cause for the 1989 high collision rate was the large moose population estimated to be about 170,000 animals.
Several recommendations were made to government, including reducing moose in high-density areas adjacent to our major highways and reducing speed limits at night. It is now clear that had those two recommendations alone been implemented many lives could have been saved and hundreds of serious injuries avoided during this past 20 years.
Ironically during the 2003 election campaign Danny Williams made a promise that if elected he would conduct an independent review of all aspects of moose management in this province.
Now with the summer of 2009 shaping up to be one of the deadliest on record I would suggest that there is no better time than now for Premier Williams to act on this 2003 promise. However if he would like to address this issue immediately all he need do is refer to the 1990 study referenced above. This study is as applicable today as it was 20 years ago.