Ontario’s moose population is in serious trouble according to a recent report by the province’s environmental commissioner.
The report, which was released on Wednesday, calls on the government to take better care of the province’s forests, where there’s been a 20 percent drop in moose over the past decade.
Climate change, an increase in roads, too much fire suppression, disease, parasites, and hunting have all played a part in the drop. Indeed, life is difficult for moose, which are much more than just an iconic Canadian symbol. According to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Diane Saxe, “moose are key forest species in most of Ontario.” Still, she says they’re not getting the protection they need.
“In the face of all these challenges, what has the ministry done? Some small adjustments to moose hunting; no action to preserve their habitat,” Saxe says, adding that the ministry is trying to manage the species with too little information.
Sadly, moose aren’t the only victim of the “large-scale loss of biodiversity” that Saxe calls a “crisis in our province and around the world.” Eight of Ontario’s 27 amphibian species are also considered “at risk,” and four of the province’s bat species are endangered. In fact, every known colony of the province’s little brown bats has been affected by an aggressive fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome. Saxe says it’s very likely that these populations will never fully recover, which means they could be wiped out completely.
But her report, fittingly titled Small Steps Forward, isn’t all negative. Saxe applauds the government’s efforts toward fighting invasive species, such as Asian carp, zebra mussels, and the emerald ash borer, which not only disrupt and destroy ecosystems, but are a massive expense for the province. Zebra mussels alone cost Ontario a reported $75 million each year, partially due to the fact that they clog power generating stations in the Great Lakes and the intake pipes at water treatment plants.
Still, she warns that the Invasive Species Act the government passed last year won’t be enough if municipalities, landowners, and conservation authorities don’t put in the hard front-line work necessary.
Along with controlling the spread of invasive species, Saxe says the province’s ecosystems would benefit if we let more forest fires burn: “Not only does [fighting fires] interfere with the natural ecological cycles, but it also increases the risk that future fires will burn more intensely, creating the risk of significant ecological and economic damage.”