A moose cull in Cape Breton will help feed 13 First Nations communities in need this month.
Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia has what has been called a “hyper-abundance” of moose, which has been causing damage to the boreal forest in the area. As a result, a government project called Bring Back the Boreal has approved a series of moose culls over four years, which should help the forest regenerate.
Part of the project also involves allowing Mi’kmaq hunters to cull a limited number of moose, and to distribute the meat to impoverished communities. Indigenous communities in Nova Scotia have high poverty rates, with and in some communities, such as Eskasoni, the child poverty rates are up to 72%. The moose cull should help many families living beneath the poverty line have greater access to food.
“For families on social assistance, it’s hard for them to just buy meat from the grocery store,” Clifford Paul, a moose management co-ordinator in Eskasoni, told the CBC, “so this contribution of 35 moose across the province is a big thing and it sure helps families with food security issues.”
This year, the Mi’kmaq were permitted to kill 35 moose. Last year, the number was around 50.
Culling animals can be a controversial practice — many people don’t like the idea of killing wild animals, and some have protested the practice. However, culls can help ecosystems rebound when an animal population becomes large enough to cause damage. In Cape Breton Highlands National Park, moose feed on young trees and shrubs before they get a chance to mature. According to the park’s website, the moose population has grown to “four times the amount a healthy, balanced forest can typically support.”
For indigenous communities, the cull presents a rare opportunity. The cull allows hunters not only to feed hungry families, Paul said, but allows them access to top-quality meat.
“There’s no hormones, antibiotics,” he said. “It’s all clean. I would say it is a delicacy.”