Recent media coverage of the moose class-action lawsuit against the government of Newfoundland and Labrador prompts me to raise my own personal concerns for the future well being of the moose resource on the island of Newfoundland, should, in fact this suit be successful in the courts.
There is no question in my mind that if the present-day government is found legally responsible for injuries incurred in moose/vehicle collisions, the government will have no choice but to eliminate the moose, as once the legal precedent has been set, the financial burden of every future collision will be placed upon the taxpayers of the province.
While I have every sympathy for anyone injured in any type of motor vehicle accident, I have to question whether my generation and the present-day government bears responsibility for the action of a colonial government under the leadership of Sir Robert Bond, which introduced the moose to this island in 1904 as a food source, before the age of automobiles and highways on this island.
Secondly, given that we built the highways through moose habitat long after the population had established itself (the first hunt being in 1945) should not the onus be upon us to look out for the moose, rather than expecting the moose to look out for us?
Our highways present us with a variety of hazards, and it is a sad fact that approximately 30 people per year lose their lives on our roadways, the vast majority having nothing to do with moose.
Thirdly, how are we to ascertain whether or not drivers involved in a moose/vehicle collision, are indeed, driving in a defensive manner, observing all rules of the road and driving according to prevailing conditions?
If indeed, a distracted or speeding driver happens to collide with a moose, how can those actions of the driver be determined, or will every single collision be deemed to be the fault of the moose, or in this case the taxpayers of the province?
The taxpayers will be the ones paying the price.
As a moose hunter and woodsman of many years, and speaking daily to people with similar interests and habits, my view is that the moose population is no more than half of the figures being tossed around. Certainly the anecdotal information from hunters supports that notion.
These magnificent animals deserve a place in our province, and as a public resource must be managed to benefit the diverse interests of all stakeholders, while ensuring that their populations and their habitats be sustained for future generations.
Time to speak up
Given that tens of thousands of Newfoundlanders, particularly outport people, look forward to the fall hunt as a great source of wild game for the family, people should start speaking up for the moose, and bringing in the Pamela Andersons of the world, if need be, to protect this great resource.
Having made the above points, I will agree that government should make every effort to clearcut the sides of highways and byways, so as to give drivers a much better chance to see animals approaching the highway.
Secondly, a great onus lies upon drivers to proceed with a speed that will allow them to stop within the beam of their headlights, should a moose be on the roadway.
Having said that, as long as a single moose remains on the island, drivers must be conscious of the fact there is a chance that their paths will cross — often with devastating consequences.
David Boyd writes from Twillingate.