Moose cull makes sense for road safety

Published on August 10, 2013

One of Canada’s greatest icons has unfortunately become a serious threat to public safety. Last year, there were approximately 800 vehicle collisions with moose in Newfoundland alone. That works out to more than two automobile-moose collisions per day.  

An automobile collision with a moose often leaves the occupants of the vehicle dead.

If the occupants do survive, their injuries are often severe. The severely injured occupant will have two wishes; one, that the accident never happened, and two, that they did not survive.

The nature of an automobile-moose collision leads to the most catastrophic of injuries such as brain and spinal cord injuries.  

Moose weigh up to 2,000 lb and most of their weight is supported on very long legs. This results in the mass of the animal flying through the windshield of a typical vehicle and devastating its occupants.  

It is very difficult for an individual to survive a collision with a moose, and if they do, injuries are so terrible that their lives can be destroyed. Without the financial resources to provide appropriate homecare or equipment, this can leave a survivor of a moose collision in terrible circumstances.

Imagine driving along a highway where brick walls would randomly appear in front of you. There is no time to react and a collision is inevitable. In fact, it is better to run into a brick wall with your car than into a moose. At least with the brick wall, the front of your car absorbs the shock.

In my automobile-moose collision (in 1996), the 2,000-lb moose went through the windshield, flew over me, ripped back the top half of the car (like a sardine container), landed in the back seat, flew back over me and out the front window when the vehicle hit the ditch, and was found in front of my vehicle.

The hood of the car was barely scratched. I was left a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down.   

My colleague, Newfoundland and Labrador Senator Fabian Manning, was in an automobile-moose collision a few years ago.  Remarkably, he survived with minor injuries but, as he has told me, he could have just as likely been killed or paralyzed like myself.  

Unlike the rest of Canada, moose are not indigenous to the island of Newfoundland. Four moose were introduced by the government of Newfoundland over 100 years ago. The moose are an invasive species to the island and their population has boomed due to the fact that there are no natural predators.

Therefore, the obvious solution is to cull (in other words kill) all the moose on the island. Removing all the moose from the island will be a huge public safety benefit, it is the environmentally friendly action to take, and it makes economic sense.

Some people will complain about the rights of the moose.

Since the choice has become the well-being and safety of humans or that of the invasive moose, the choice should be obvious.  

Other solutions have been proposed, such as fences along highways, increased hunting without total elimination of moose, and other methods. The only foolproof method to eliminate moose collisions is to eliminate the moose. The island of Newfoundland is the only part of North America in the position to do so with the added benefit of bringing the island into more of its original environmental state.

You cannot sue a moose and most automobile insurance, regardless of where you reside in the country, does not provide adequate resources to compensate for the types of catastrophic injuries that result from automobile-moose collisions.

Not surprisingly, there is a case before the court in Newfoundland where some victims of automobile-moose collisions are suing the province for compensation since automobile or private insurance does  not protect drivers from automobile-moose collisions.  

Without getting into details about any specific case, long litigious fights with insurance companies, government and other stakeholders are very common with automobile-moose collisions. The financial burden on the victims of automobile-moose collisions is profound and can cost tens of millions of dollars over a lifetime.   

Of course, for the victim and the families, no price can be put on the pain, suffering and the reduction in the victim’s quality of life or their ability to contribute to society.

Newfoundland is in a unique situation and future tragedies from moose collisions can be completely avoided if the appropriate steps are taken.  

The economic impact due to personal injury, property damage, litigious lawsuits, loss of productivity, will far outweigh any possible economic benefit that may exist to tourism associated with the moose hunt.  It will take time to rid Newfoundland of over 100,000 moose.   It would seem to be an economic boom to those involved in the moose hunt to help in the cull of the moose and in the years it takes to rid Newfoundland of the moose pests.  

Newfoundland will continue to be one of the most majestic places on planet Earth and a lot safer without moose.  

Steven Fletcher

PC MP for Charleswood–St. James–Assiniboia–Headingley, Man.