The perils of blaming moose

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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.

Population falling

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.

Geographic location: Twillingate

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Recent comments

  • Skeptical Cynic
    December 20, 2013 - 22:32

    A thoughtful, well-reasoned analysis. In my opinion the vast majority of moose-vehicle collisions are caused by a combination of excessive speed and lack of vigilance.

  • a smith
    December 20, 2013 - 17:45

    I don't understand how a person could dra w a line in the sand re drivers and moose such as demonstrated in Mr. Doug Smith's comments below .It's an immature facile observation with no proferred insight as to how to best save the live sof both moose and man . Only a black and white mind could offer such a one- sided position .Also I don't believe for a moment that any mature judge will set a precedent for open warfare on the NL moose . The moose is just a moose but a human being is supposed to be a somewhat rational creature .Consequently, we must ensure both species live as long as possible .A right-thinking human being has a responsibility to look out not only for himself but also for wildlife of all sorts . Yet, what some Newfoundland fanatics are agitating for is the mass slaughter of the moose , a poor pure instinctual being unaware of the inane furor demanding his demise . Set the sitaution up as an equation and the imbalance is laughable , with the excpetion of the obsessive compulsives in our midst who believe might equals right .As for those who have suffered after serious accidents , let it be a warning to those who are still driving carelessly .For innocent victims of such accidents , we must ensure through a mass campaign they see the necessity of having adequate insurance to cover themselves after such accidents .I say that because I suspect many drivers have neglected to acquire much beyond liability and car insurance , just enough to get on the road. The lack of such a financial underpinning only aggravates their daily lives in post-accident periods. I feel for the victims of moose -vehicle accidents just as I feel for victims of all accidents but let's not blame the moose and bleed the provincial treasury , and I say bleed because government monies for such insurance premiums and monetary court settlements and health care will draw funds from many of our needy citizens , funds that could be used to lift them out of lives of daily misery . Mr. Boyd , people lives and good health are much more important than allowing moose to freely wander about our highways with horrific results. Doug Smith Grand Falls-Windsor

  • Frank
    December 20, 2013 - 17:16

    Excellent letter Boyd. Obviously Doug Smith is friends with Eugene Nippard being from Grand Falls and may even be in on the lawsuit. This lawsuit is a shameful attempt by Eugene to line his own pockets at the expense of the taxpayers of Newfoundland. The government is certainly not to blame for someone running into a moose no more than when someone runs into you when they are texting or drunk driving. The moose are the least of your worries on the highway. Anyone who does any driving will attest to the deplorable driving habits of people. You could eliminate every moose on the island and the highway deaths would not change one bit, in fact they might increase. I hope Sopac loses this frivolous suit so I wont have to hear Eugene on open line on a daily basis trying to rationalize slaughtering a whole species of animals while he blatantly ignores 99% of deaths on the highways which have nothing whatsoever to do with moose.

  • Doug Smith
    December 19, 2013 - 17:16

    Mr. Boyd, there are too many moose and they cause too many accidents with (and these are your own words), “devastating consequences”. I hope the class-action lawsuit against the government of NL succeeds and the lives of humans are put ahead of moose. I also found it strange that in your letter you seem to blame those unfortunate enough to be involved in a moose vehicle accident as the cause of their own misfortune rather than the ever present moose. In particular, you asked about those involved in these accidents if they were, “ driving in a defensive manner, observing all the rules of the road and driving according to prevailing conditions.” Mr. Boyd , people lives and good health are much more important than allowing moose to freely wander about our highways with horrific results. Doug Smith Grand Falls-Windsor

    • David Boyd
      December 20, 2013 - 15:39

      Mr. Smith- Are you an idiot? I did not blame anyone who was in an accident. I just said how can we determine if all accidents bear no human blame. Let's kill of all the moose, then, the rabbits, too, as someone might serve to avoid one, and make our province devoid of all wildlife. We killed the Beothucks because they were a nuisance- we killed the Great Auk, The Labrador Duck- so we might as well make the moose extinct, too. As long as there is 1 moose left- there is the chance of someone running into the moose. Have you not seen idiots pass you on a dark night going 140 KM. I suppose it would be the fault of the moose if someone like that ran into one. However, I did not make any assumption about previous accidents. Please learn to read!

    • Ed Smith
      December 20, 2013 - 16:32

      Dear Mr. Smith, I think you have your facts wrong. If you have done any research into the Moose-Vehicle collision rate in this province you will find that they represent less than 3% of all motor vehicle accidents. So 97% of all accidents do not involve moose! So, what you are stating in your comment is false, that there are too many moose. If this was the case, as it is in Sweden, then the number of Moose-Vechicle collisions would be dramatically higher. Sweden, has 4500 moose vehicle collisions per year, & 25000 roe deer collisions, not to mention thousands of wild boar collisions; Representing 60% of their total accidents. Furthermore, there is no call to cull these animals, nor is there anyone seeking reparations from the government in Sweden. Why? Because they know that every time you get behind the wheel of a car an accident might happen. Furthermore, Sweden has had wildlife Fencing erected for 30years & they have 5000 kilometers of it. Yet, the numbers I mentioned above still occur. There is no doubt that moose-vehicle collisions can have devastating results. From minor injuries to major life-altering injuries & even death. But, do you have any idea of how infrequent that is? 80% of all MVC have no injuries at all! Of the 20% left over 3/4 report minor injuries. So, if we are going to talk about this issue we need to talk about facts, not emotion. Mr. Boyd, Nor I, ever wish anyone harm and feel for those affected by moose-vehicle collisions. But, like all accidents there is a root cause that must be addressed, and it is not only the moose! Yes anyone can get into a MVC with no fault of their own (fact). However, the majority, like that of non-moose related vehicle accidents, have more to do with the drivers behavior behind the wheel than not. Distractions, speed, technology, Drunkenness, fatigue, etc. all contribute to the accident statistics and to deny this is irrational. If we want to alter the number of motor vehicle collisions in this province, whether they are moose related or not, then we must put aside emotion and focus on the true facts. As, Mr. Boyd pointed out in his article, if we have a single moose on the island, drivers must remain cautious that they have the potential to hit it. This is no different than caribou, black bear, or any wildlife. the greatest example of this is FOGO island. they had one moose on the entire island, and a driver killed it. Moose, are a vital component to our rural economics, tourism, and diets of residents. Are we really willing to wipe out a species? If we do then we all should be ashamed! If we drive according to the conditions, without distraction, sober, & well rested; MVC would dramatically reduce. It will never, no matter what mitigation we choose (fencing, wildlife crossings,etc), ever be zero. Edward Smith CBS