Thursday, August 15, 2013

MP's call for moose cull out to lunch

The following letter to the editor is published in today's edition (Aug. 15th) of the St. John's Telegram. The above picture is of the Jeep I was driving in October, 2012 when I had a head-on collision with a moose on the western edge of Terra Nova National Park. Find the story here. I wasn't injured; the moose dragged itself to the side of Trans-Canada and died within minutes of the collision. 

With all due respect to Steven Fletcher — who’s been paralyzed from the neck down since 1996 when his car struck a moose (”it’s better to run into a brick wall”) — he’s out to lunch.
His letter to the editor (“Moose cull makes sense for road safety,” Aug. 10 Telegram) argues that the “obvious solution is to cull (in other words, kill) all the moose on the island.”
Fletcher is absolutely wrong, and even to suggest the wiping out of an entire moose population (“invasive species” that they are) is foolish.
The best way (not the only way) to curb moose/vehicle collisions isn’t to kill every last animal, but to slow down.
Even then, there’s still risk — that’s the reality of life in Newfoundland and Labrador.
It’s more wild and rugged here than ever with the population shift towards town.
So much of the bay is slowly reverting to its natural state.    
We must adjust to nature, not the other way around. Haven’t we learned from the sea?
If studies show a case for fences in high-traffic moose zones, spend the money and build fences.
And continue with brush-cutting and silhouettes, and perhaps even increase moose licences in certain areas.
As well, renew the debate about cellphones and driving.  It is unbelievably dangerous — deadly even — to operate a phone while driving, and too many of us still do it.
I shook my head when I read Fletcher’s letter to the editor, because he’s not just wrong — he’s dead wrong.  
He doesn’t understand how moose have become part of our culture, diet and economy.
It’s not about human life vs. moose, but about living, mitigating the dangers and learning to live together. The we-brought-them-here, we-can-kill-them argument is ridiculous — as is so flippantly advising to wipe out a population.
It’s unacceptable for an MP (even a Conservative one) to recommend the wiping out of an entire animal population as a serious alternative.
Fletcher’s either an instigator, misguided, or a fool.
Ryan Cleary
NDP MP for St. John’s South-Mount Pearl


Maurice Barry said...

Last winter I did a blog post on a similar theme. (The link is here if you wish to read it but I will summarize in this response  ) I did a bit of research and found some interesting things:
- The number of Moose/Vehicle accidents took a rise at about the same time we decommissioned the railway. This, I took to mean that there’s (DUH!) a straightforward correlation between the amount of driving done and the number of M/V accidents. As we did more driving we hit more moose. As the roads became wider/straighter/safer we took more risks.
- The number of moose does not seem to be increasing. In fact, if I have it right, the population is down significantly from the max that happened well over a decade ago. I take this to mean that the moose themselves ate not exactly the cause for the increase. Drivers are.
- The number of M/V accidents seems to be on a sharp rise again since around 2005 or so. This is, of course, a leap that really needs to be investigated farther, but I interpret this as due to the huge increase in the amount of distracting gadgets that are now in vehicles. Smart devices make us stupid drivers.
Here’s the short form of what I think is going on: Drivers are (a) taking far more trips than they used to (b) taking driving much too casually, just assuming that nothing will go wrong and (c) are generally distracted by gadgets, particularly smartphone applications that require extended concentration on the screen (texting/facebook/twitter and such) and not on the road.
Here’s the short form of what I think should be done about it: (a) take cost effective steps to reduce the hazard from the moose (selected culls/moose-fences/crossings/brush-cutting where warranted. And please, please, don’t get me started about that silly set of poles and blue lights just out the highway. Even if they worked—which they do not—they’d be just one more reason for drivers to be inattentive) and, more importantly (b) work to make the drivers more situationally aware (mandatory components of drivers’ ed., better regulations, more general public education—campaigns/sineage, etc.)
Do you know what? It would be an awesome idea if you could put together an informed panel consisting of real experts (RCMP, wildlife professionals, biologists and professional drivers such as truckers and daily long-distance commuters, oh and there’s at least one MUN researcher who studies situational awareness) and stage a respectful civil (pun intended) conversation around all of this. Some real good could come out of it.

Sylvia J. Wilson said...

"Cull" is such a nice, politically correct word, that people like isn't it? Hire hunters to "cull" the moose and then what is the plan for the carcass'? Throw or give them away to charity? Either way it cost the government to run this program.

When faced with any issue, use the KISS method...(Keep it Simple Stupid) Increase the number of moose licenses and put up fencing. Problem solved, or at least reduced.

Too many moose - increase the hunting. Not enough caribou - reduce the hunting.

It's grade two math.