Cull of the Wild: The North Mountain Moose Harvest

It’s easy for people to not think about moose culls in our national park during the summer; however, for anybody wanting more details about the annual moose cull in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the 2017 Moose Harvest Summary Document can provide information. It is a short read, but gives more detail than Parks Canada provides in media releases. I have requested this document since the first cull in 2015 and recently received the 2017 harvest results:


2017 Harvest Report (10)


Sadly, when I look at all three harvest summaries together, there is no indication that things are improving. There is much that is disturbing, like a map showing a small pocket-like area near the northern Park border, where many moose were killed in close proximity. There are also recurring issues which appear to be getting worse, as follows:

Helicopter Usage: In 2015, a helicopter was used in about 80% of the moose kills. That usage increased to 88% in 2016, and now in the 2017 harvest, it has reached an unbelievable high of about 94% — helicopter usage was involved in 34 of the 35 moose kills. What was initially presented in 2015 as a cull of 35 to 40 moose in a study area on North Mountain has seemingly become an intensive killing area of at least 122 moose to date: adults, juveniles, calves, pregnant females.

Number of Shots: I have read many articles stating that an experienced hunter could kill a moose with one or two shots. In the 2015 cull, it took as many as 5 shots to kill a moose; in 2016 as many as 4 shots were used. In the most recent 2017 cull, the number of shots is at an all-time high with as many as 6 shots to kill a moose. For the cull, Animal Care Guidelines initially stated that shots should only be made when a moose is stationary, and the thoracic cavity which contains the heart and lungs should be targeted. However, a request was made, and apparently agreed to, for neck shots to also be allowed (information obtained through ATIP documents*).

In all that I have read thus far, a shot to the thoracic cavity is the most humane and quickest way to kill a moose. Neck shots can cause a great deal of suffering because the animal doesn’t always die quickly. Pity the poor animal that had to suffer six shots before it finally died. If an animal is not allowed to live, it should at least be allowed to die as quickly and painlessly as possible.

In my earlier letters years ago regarding the moose cull, I often spoke of the cull in terms of a “slaughter.” Today, when I look at the intensive killing with ever-increasing helicopter usage and shots fired, my opinion hasn’t changed.

Still from Parks Canada video, "Bring Back the Boreal"

Still from Parks Canada video, “Bring Back the Boreal”–T0)

It is notable that ATIP research revealed a prior request had been made to allow a period of hunting with crossbow and possibly bow and arrow.* This would have meant moose would be ‘hunted’ on North Mountain in the CBHNP during September and October, in addition to the shooting cull which usually takes place in November and December. Thankfully, the request was denied – at that time. I wonder how much more suffering may have been caused to those unfortunate moose had the request been allowed. What a fiasco it could have caused with the many tourists visiting the Park in September and October for the fall colors. It is apparent in ATIP documents* that ongoing efforts are made to keep the helicopter, slinging dead moose, out of the eye of the public as much as possible.


The extremely high, cumulative cost of the North Mountain moose cull in our National Park is also something which must be discussed. However, to give that topic the attention that it deserves will require another letter in the very near future.

Rose Courage
Sydney/Victoria County


*Excerpts from ATIP documents supplied by Rose Courage: