The president of the Newfoundland Federation of Hunters and Anglers, Ed Smith, says too much attention is being put on moose-vehicle collisions in this province when a more holistic look should be taken at what’s causing the most accidents.
“The biggest thing that I get frustrated with is that I understand that this is an emotional issue,” says Smith.
Because of that, Smith is concerned more attention gets paid to moose-vehicle collisions than the issue warrants. Government information obtained by Smith and shared with The Telegram shows that since 2001, the lowest number of moose collisions in one year is 352. The highest has been 709. But the lowest number of traffic collisions of any kind in those years was 7,178 and the highest 8,538.
“I like to see the roads safe as well,” says Smith.
However, he sees the number of moose-vehicle collisions to be relatively small compared to the large majority of other types of accidents that are happening.
Fuelling his argument is that there has only been one year since 1999 when there was more than three fatalities caused by moose. In that year there were six.
Smith is also convinced that since there are other factors at play in the majority of other accidents — such as alcohol or driver awareness — then those same factors could be present in moose-vehicle collisions too.
“Everybody is driving soberly. They drive the right speed. They drive according to conditions. A moose just jumps out and kills them or injures them. That’s impossible,” says Smith.
Smith is a hunter and is also concerned what so much attention on moose vehicle collisions could do to the island’s moose population. A class-action lawsuit underway by Chess Crosbie, is looking to hold the provincial government responsible for some moose-vehicle collisions.
Part of Crosbie’s argument is that the moose population should be lowered to 80,000 animals. While it fluctuates, the population is usually estimated at somewhere between 120,000 and 150,000. Recently, it is thought to be dropping below the 120,000 mark.
“If this lawsuit is successful, you’ll see a major reduction,” says Smith. “I don’t think that our population can warrant such a massive cull and survive.”
Not every group concerned about moose-vehicle collisions wants to see a cull.
Eugene Nippard is with the Save Our People Action Committee (SOPAC). Its focus is getting the number of moose around highways reduced, but Nippard says a cull isn’t what SOPCAC is after. It has an action plan that would see brush cut back around the roads and fencing put up in the hot spots for moose crossings.
It would also see problem moose along the roadways removed, either through relocation or by shooting them. The animal could then be given to a hunter to fill his/her licence or the meat donated to an organization that will use it.
“We’ve been trying to get that on the go for three years and it’s never been put in place, but there’s a management plan in place to make sure that they got 120,000 moose in the province,” says Nippard.
Nippard doesn’t see his group as anti-moose at all, just anti-moose accident.
“When we’re saving a moose-vehicle accident, we’re also saving a moose,” he says.
Nippard says moose-vehicle accidents are just his group’s focus and they aren’t suggesting there aren’t other important collision issues that need to be addressed.
“MADD is not working on moose-vehicle accident victims,” he says.
Moose along the roadways has been a controversial topic for a long time in this province, as has the very presence of moose which were introduced in the early 1900s. Smith argues the debate over its natural place here has passed.
“Every moose that actually exists in this province now was born here so technically they are native. No more different than me or you.”
That argument won’t likely go over well with all hunters since by that rationale the coyote is also now native.