Moose population not in danger in northwestern B.C.

Gov't responds to highway blockade mounted by Tahltan Band

  • Aug. 22, 2014 12:00 p.m.

THE MOOSE population in the Dease Lake and Telegraph Creek area isn’t in danger, says the provincial government following an information blockade set up Aug. 20 by the Tahltan Band.

Band chief councillor Terri Brown had said too many people from the outside come up every fall to shoot moose without understanding Tahltan traditions and the blockade was an attempt to turn those hunters away.

The provincial environment ministry, in releasing a series of statistics, estimated that residents make up the vast majority of an estimated 831 moose hunters in the area each year with 236 bull moose being shot each year.

Unlike some areas in which there is a limited area hunt, the area around Dease Lake and Telegraph Creek is open with no limitation or restriction on the number of licences issued.

The general open season runs from Aug. 20 to Oct. 15.

“This annual harvest rate is well below the 6 per cent that the ministry sets as a conservative sustainable annual harvest rate for bull moose ….,” said the ministry of the number of bull moose shot.

“This is a vast area that is largely pristine and with poor access. This combination results in moose populations that are healthy and stable. The area is not part of the recently observed moose declines through central B.C.”

Brown also said the moose hunt can’t be properly regulated because there are only two conservation officers in the area.

In reality, said the ministry, there is only one conservation officer stationed in Dease Lake.

“He is supported by four other field Conservation Officers and a Sergeant in the Bulkley/Stikine zone that rotate through the areas as required,” the ministry added.

That zone takes in the area north of Dease Lake to the Yukon border, south to Smithers and Burns Lake and south of Burns Lake.

Brown also said outside moose hunters raise safety issues for Tahltan residents.

“We have culture camps up there at the moment with kids playing and learning about traditional hunting practices and we want them to be safe,” she said.

“But we also need to control the situation to protect our environment and our traditions for today, for our children and for our grandchildren.”

The information blockade, set up on Hwy51 between Dease Lake and Telegraph Creek and away from the main highway in the area, Hwy37 North, is the second move in August by the Tahltan Band to influence activity in the region.

On Aug. 8, it said permits would be needed by companies moving heavy vehicles on Hwy51 to Telegraph Creek.

That followed what the band said were “a series of close calls and mishaps” on the road which descends down a series of switchbacks from Dease Lake to Telegraph Creek.

On July 29, it said a low-bed heavy-hauler slipped off the road.

The transportation ministry says it has met with the band to improve safety regarding heavy vehicles using Hwy51.

Last week, in announcing the moose hunt blockade, the band said it was “asking members of the public wishing to traverse the road to obtain permission ….”

“All members of the public that do not receive permission may be stopped, particularly non-Tahltan hunters, from trespassing on Tahltan reserve lands and using the road.”

At issue is whether the band has jurisdiction over the provincial highway as it passes over Tahltan Band reserve land.

The transportation ministry says there is one section of the highway of interest.

“The alignment of the road through the reserve has changed significantly since the reserve was first established in 1938. We are in discussion … regarding this issue,” said the ministry in a statement.