Cuts to pro­gram too close to the bone

Out­fit­ter, bi­ol­o­gist both want jaw­bone col­lec­tion to re­main


Out­fit­ter Wayne Hol­loway re­al­izes that cuts to wildlife fund­ing aren’t what’s on many peo­ple’s minds with this con­tro­ver­sial bud­get.

“I un­der­stand the dilemma. It’s hard to stand up in the House and de­fend spend­ing money on wildlife when you don’t have money for a set of den­tures for some se­nior cit­i­zen.”

Nev­er­the­less, the dis­con­tin­u­a­tion of the jaw­bone col­lec­tion pro­gram that has seen hunters bring in that part of the an­i­mal for years has him grind­ing his teeth.

“The jaw­bone is where the nutrition issue shows up the ear­li­est be­cause there’s no­body go­ing out there do­ing body weights or calf birth-weight mea­sure­ments,” Hol­loway says.

“It’s the guar­an­teed sign­post to show you what’s go­ing on out there - and now we have noth­ing.”

Hol­loway has had Pine Ridge Lodge out­fit­ting camp since 1988. He rep­re­sented New­found­land out­fit­ters dur­ing a five-year $15-mil­lion cari­bou study be­gin­ning in 2008 that ad­dressed the prov­ince’s alarm­ingly shrink­ing herds. He points to some of what was learned dur­ing that study to ex­em­plify the im­por­tance of jaw­bone col­lec­tion. While the data col­lected on cari­bou were good qual­ity for years, there was a fiveyear pe­riod lead­ing up to the col­lapse of herds where jaw­bones were col­lected, but the data not an­a­lyzed. When the data was looked at dur­ing the study, in­for­ma­tion col­lected from the jaw­bones in­di­cated that there was a se­vere nutrition prob­lem with the cari­bou herds in parts of the prov­ince.

“Had they been plot­ting the data on an an­nual ba­sis they would have seen when the de­cline be­gan and they would have known then that there was a nutrition de­fi­ciency in the habi­tat and the cari­bou, as a con­se­quence of that, was go­ing to col­lapse,” says Hol­loway.

“Now we’re not even go­ing to col­lect the data.”

Cer­tain mea­sure­ments of the jaw­bones of moose and cari­bou can give de­mo­graphic in­for­ma­tion such as age, nutrition and there is also a sur­ro­gate mea­sure­ment for body size. En­vi­ron­ment and Con­ser­va­tion Min­is­ter Perry Trimper, how­ever, ar­gues that dis­con­tin­u­ing the jaw­bone col­lec­tion pro­gram, which was elim­i­nated as part of cuts in Bud­get 2016, isn’t a loss.

“It’s cer­tainly not nec­es­sar­ily a re­flec­tion of the pop­u­la­tion. It’s been a tool. It’s been a sec­ondary tool,” Trimper says.

“When you’re work­ing solely say with jaw­bones what you’re ac­tu­ally do­ing is you’re work­ing with a bias. You’re work­ing with jaws from an­i­mals that were se­lected by hunters.”

Hol­loway isn’t ar­gu­ing for the sole use of jaw­bone data, but for the con­tin­ued use of it with other study op­tions. Jeff Hig­don, a wildlife bi­ol­o­gist from here who now has his own en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sult­ing busi­ness in Man­i­toba, sec­onds Hol­loway’s opin­ion and flatly dis­agrees with Trimper’s.

“My first thought was that it’s in­cred­i­bly stupid to stop it and the data ...I won’t say it’s the only way, but it’s cer­tainly the best way the prov­ince had for col­lect­ing de­mo­graphic data on moose and cari­bou har­vests.”

Hig­don also isn’t buy­ing Trimper’s ar­gu­ment about bias in jaw­bone col­lec­tion.

“I think any issue about bias is just try­ing to de­flect from the issue in the first place,” he says.

The jaw­bone col­lec­tion pro­gram has hunters do­ing a lot of the grunt work. They cut the bones out and drop them off at a wildlife of­fice. Later the bones are boiled and mea­sured by lab staff.

“It ac­tu­ally rep­re­sents quite a sub­stan­tial cost,” Trimper says about can­celling the pro­gram.

The sav­ings is $25,000 to $30,000 an­nu­ally. That amount seems small to both Hig­don and Hol­loway when mea­sured against the value of the data.

“The prob­lem is that none of these an­i­mals shows up at the vot­ing booth. That’s the prob­lem,” says Hol­loway.

“We have no barom­e­ter to fol­low the health of these re­sources.” Trimper dis­agrees. He said the govern­ment is mov­ing more to­ward habi­tat mod­el­ling and draw­ing as­so­ci­a­tions be­tween that habi­tat and the an­i­mals you should see there.

“Once you un­der­stand what’s out there ver­sus the habi­tat, that’s where the mod­el­ling comes in,” he says.

“It’s not so much quan­tity of data. It’s qual­ity.”

With jaw­bones you get both, Hig­don con­tends. He says re­plac­ing such data with habi­tat mod­el­ling misses an im­por­tant point.

“That still ig­nores the fact that they’re not go­ing to have any de­mo­graphic data. To link a habi­tat model to a pop­u­la­tion, you need that de­mo­graphic data to do it.”

Hol­loway is now wor­ried that the govern­ment has no real knowl­edge of the num­ber of moose out there and aerial sur­veys will only tell so much. The loss of such a cheap pro­gram has him gravely con­cerned.

“I would pre­fer to sell this de­ci­sion not so much as a loss, but more of a change in the way we’re do­ing things,” Trimper says.

No mat­ter which way you sell it, it’s clear some hunters, out­fit­ters and bi­ol­o­gists aren’t buy­ing it.


A bi­ol­o­gist holds a cari­bou jaw­bone. The jaw­bone can pro­vide valu­able in­for­ma­tion about the health and his­tory of a cari­bou.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.