Highway fencing demanded

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History of Moose discussed on lawsuit’s second day

With close to one moose for every four Newfoundlanders, Eugene Nippard, co-chair of Save Our People Action Committee, is wondering why there are only 16 kilometres of highway fencing in the province.

A moose runs across a lawn on Appledore Place in the east end on St. John’s in 2012. — File photo by Joe Gibbons/ The Telegram

“New Brunswick’s got over 400 kilometers done and the program is continuing,” said Nippard, adding that New Brunswick has 33,000 moose to Newfoundland and Labrador’s 120,000.

Nippard was at the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador for the second day of an ongoing class-action lawsuit about moose-vehicle collisions. He is one of the plaintiffs accusing the province of negligence.

“Right now there’s no management plan in place to protect the people of this province on the highway,” he said.

“There’s a management plan in place, and a good one, to protect the moose population. And we figure that there’s something definitely wrong with that.”

Nippard began the Save Our People Action Committee in 2009, seven years after colliding with a moose while driving back to St. John’s from Fogo Island.

A 600-pound moose came dashing across the road and crashed through the windshield, ripping off the roof and leaving Nippard with his head jammed in between his seat and the side of the car.

“The brush was right next to the highway at the time,” he said. “We didn’t have a chance at all.”

He said he has suffered from back and neck problems as well as seizures ever since.

“Between 10 and 15 per cent of people in these accidents will never work again,” he said. “So they’re costing the taxpayers of this province millions. There’s a lot more that can be done and the government certainly isn’t doing it.”

Nippard is hoping the lawsuit will force the government to take responsibility for more highway fencing, better brush-cutting and a more effective way of reducing the moose population.

“It’s hard so far,” he said of the case. “But we just hope that as the days go by, it’s going to get easier for our lawyer and the cause.”

Robert Cuff, a Newfoundland historian, took the stand in court Thursday morning to speak about the history of moose in the province.

Moose were introduced in two waves — first in 1874 and 1875, then again in 1904. They were brought to the island for the twin purposes of feeding people and providing sport for shooting.

Cuff also spoke about the “wolf bounty” enacted in 1839 by Newfoundland’s colonial government. The policy, meant to clear the way for agricultural development, had government paying people five pounds for every wolf killed, a sizable amount of money at the time.

There’s been a discussion as to whether the size of the moose population in Newfoundland is due to the extinction of the Newfoundland wolf, the moose’s only natural predator. Whether or not the “wolf bounty” was responsible, Cuff could not say.

Ches Crosbie, the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit, had also called Cuff to testify about Newfoundland’s wildlife management practices in the 20th century.

It was decided, however, by the presiding judge that Cuff did not have enough of a scientific background to be an expert witness about game management policy.

It is expected that Ronald Penny, the former St. John’s city manager, will take the stand tomorrow to testify that public officials did not take appropriate care when researching and advising the government on ways to mitigate moose-vehicle collisions.

mark.rendell@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Supreme Court, People Action Committee

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick

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