MANAGEMENT SYSTEM AND CURRENT STATUS OF MOOSE IN QUÉBEC
Moose have been subject to major hunting pressure since the start of the settlement period. By the end of the last century, moose were considered on the verge of extinction throughout eastern North America. In Quèbec, the control of moose harvesting began in 1843 with the introduction of a no hunting period (February 1 - August 1). Gradually, regulations became stricter, finally resulting in imposing the bulls-only law in 1899. In 1955, harvest monitoring began with the systematic survey of the harvest and the number of licenses sold. The first population estimates, based on the observations of forest workers and trappers, also date back to this period. However, it was only during the seventies that systematic population monitoring and survey methods were adopted, the latter becoming necessary due to increased sport hunting pressure. Currently, monitoring of moose is based on three main tools: registration of the harvest, aerial surveys of the populations and socioeconomic surveys of the hunters. Moose hunting increased noticeably over the last 25 years. The number of moose hunters grew from about 15,000 in the early sixties to over 155,000 by 1991. This important growth is the result of an increase in the potential clientele (baby-boomers) whose interest was stimulated by several regulatory or social measures. However, the sport harvest of moose has not followed the same growth pattern. In the early sixties, approximately 2,500 moose were harvested; This figure climbed to approximately 12,000 in the early eighties followed by a 1 % decrease per year, despite an increase in the number of hunters, the development of bow hunting and the increase in the harvest in wildlife reserves. Meanwhile, hunting success has gradually declined, falling from a peak of 20 % (bulls only) to less than 7.5 % (bulls, cows and calves) in recent years. All of the indicators tend to show that the harvest rate exceeded the optimum level in the early eighties. Aerial surveys conducted at the end of the eighties suggest that the harvest rate exceeded the capacity of the moose population in most hunting zones. Only the populations of those zones where only bow hunting was allowed, and possibly a few northern zones where access is difficult, seems to be growing. In the early nineties, the post-hunting population was estimated at 52,543 moose outside wildlife reserves, and about 13,000 moose in the reserves. Outside wildlife reserves, densities are low (≈ 1 moose/10 km2) everywhere, except in western Quèbec and in zones where only bow hunting is authorized. The harvest rates associated with hunting are high (19 - 44%) in all zones offering easy access. The proportion of bulls is very low (25 - 39%) among adults in all the hunting zones except in the northern ones (19 and 22: 47 - 48%). A Management plan, focusing on the protection of cows, was introduced in 1994. The aim of this plan is to increase the population by 13 to 15% by the fall of 1998. In 1994, the Plan made it possible to diminish cow harvest by approximately 3,000 individuals.
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