Concerned about the decline in moose throughout their traditional territory, members of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake are enforcing their own moratorium on sports moose hunting for the second year in a row.
Rapid Lake, Que., where the majority of Barriere Lake members live, is located in the heart of La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve about 300 kilometres northwest of Montreal. Moose hunting season started Sept. 14 in the park, but community members have been turning away hunters at four checkpoints set up along junctions off Highway 117.
“It’s not a position that we look forward to taking but it is something that has to be dealt with,” said Barriere Lake councillor Charles Ratt.
“It’s a cultural genocide is how we look at it. Our closest grocery store is an hour and a half away from our community. We rely on the food source here.”
Quebec’s ministry of forests, wildlife and parks conducted an aerial survey of the moose population earlier this year. The results showed a “slightly lower” population density, which the ministry did not deem critical.
As a precaution, Sépaq, the provincial government agency that manages the wildlife reserve, reduced sports hunting permits by 30 per cent and the number of female moose hunting permits for the fall season this year were reduced to 100 from 200. It left an area of 1,200 square kilometres around Rapid Lake free from sport hunting.
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake leadership, however, say Quebec is ignoring the findings and that is why they are taking action into their own hands. They’ve been calling for a complete moratorium on sports hunting for the last three years.
Not only are moose one of the main food sources harvested, they say, but they are important for practising culture and tradition.
“With a low moose count, it’s been very difficult for people to be able to be successful at passing on those teachings and knowledge to the younger generation,” said Ratt.
Last year, members made their presence known to hunters throughout the entire season with the goal of raising awareness of their concerns over conservation and sustainability.
“We were just educating them, trying to explain to them, work with the government to come up with a solution. But, our voice has been totally neglected,” said Ratt.
In a statement released Friday, the ministry of forests, wildlife and parks said it is “sensitive to the concerns” expressed by the Algonquin leadership, and said discussions will continue about implementing concrete measures to reduce the impact on the moose population in the park.
“It shares the same concerns about the importance of ensuring the conservation of the resource and its sustainability for current and future generations and intends to continue the dialogue with Indigenous communities,” a statement from the ministry read.