Parks Canada Extends Moose Cull, Ups Budget

boondoggle: (noun) an unnecessary and expensive piece of work, especially one that is paid for by the public (Cambridge Dictionary)


I think the Cape Breton Highlands National Park (CBHNP) moose cull meets the definition of a boondoggle.

As a Parks Canada undertaking, it is definitely paid for by the public.

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

Still from Parks Canada video.

And it is certainly expensive: documents recently received in response to an access to information and privacy (ATIP) request to Parks Canada show this “small-scale” plan to kill moose has so far cost at least $961,832.41 — that’s almost $8,000 per moose. And the documents show it’s destined to become even more expensive:

BBB [Bring Back the Boreal] was initially approved for 2014 as a 4-yr, $1M project with 4 moose harvests. The budget grew to $1.6M in 2016, but with 3 harvests, due to the cancelled 2014 initial harvest.

In FEB2017 the project received RPA approval for an extended 2018-19 year to “make up for moose population removal not conducted (in 2014) and to monitor survival of additional tree planting proposed in (2017)”, with a reviewed budget of $2.1M.

In other words, the budget for the project has more than doubled since it was first introduced.

But as you may have noticed, the cull, which was supposed to have been completed by March 2018, will now be extended an additional year. And here, I think it’s worth pointing out that the 2014 cull didn’t take place because organizers didn’t have an approved hyperabundant wildlife management plan or other necessary documents to support it. As the final Hyperabundant Moose Management Plan (HMMP) for North Mountain states:

Before active management for wildlife can occur, Parks Canada requires the development of a hyperabundant wildlife management plan according to the process and principles set out in the Parks Canada Management Directive 4.4.11…This plan fully satisfies the requirements of the Directive.

The plan was approved in November 2015.


Comms policy

If you didn’t hear about the extension of the cull last February, that’s probably because Parks Canada wasn’t talking about it:

Since the FEB2017 approval of the extension year, any new external comm[unication]s has been silent on the project duration. Public info developed earlier (incl the current website) still reflects a 4-year project with 3 harvests.

During a 2017 Moose Harvest Strategy Meeting, a decision was made to “[c]ommunicate the harvest changes in a low-profile, yet proactive way to staff, stakeholders and the public” after the necessary changes were made to the HMMP to “ensure policy compliance.” According to guidance received from Parks Canada’s National Office (NO):

…a simple amendment to the HMMP wold meet policy requirements, with no need for additional stakeholders or public consultation. Environmental impact assessment and animal care approval documents could be amended similarly.

The only reason I knew the cull had been extended was because of a quote from Derek Quann, the manager of the forest restoration project for Parks Canada, found at the very end of this  December 2017 CBC story:

Thirty-seven moose were taken the first year and 50 last year. Quann said there will be a hunt next year but the number of moose culled has yet to be determined.

And in March 2018 (over a year after getting the go-ahead for its fourth harvest), Parks Canada apparently quietly updated its website to note:

A fourth harvest is planned for this fall. This will be the last moose harvest as part of the Bring Back the Boreal pilot project. A comprehensive moose population survey of Cape Breton Highlands National Park, is also planned for this winter. This will provide an up-to-date picture of the moose population in the park.

Why the secrecy? Apparently because of people like me:

Opponents of the moose population reduction aspect will be keenly interested in the project extension and can be expected to oppose it.

People, in other words, who argue that the moose harvest meets the final criterion for a boondoggle: that it is unnecessary.

fourth harvest year versus 3 year

Minutes from a Parks Canada conference call held on 27 April 2017 under the subject line “2017 BBB Moose Harvest Strategy Meeting.” Received in response to an ATIP request to Parks Canada.



North of the Park

If you’ve read my earlier letters to the Spectator on the subject (in September 2017, January 2018 and August 2018), you’ll know I do not see the cull as “necessary,” and this latest batch of ATIP documents has done nothing to change my mind.

Moose in CBHNP. Still shot from Parks Canada "Bring Back the Boreal" video. (Source: YouTube

Moose in CBHNP. Still shot from Parks Canada “Bring Back the Boreal” video.

At least 122 moose (unborn fetuses are not counted) have been killed to date in the study area (37 in 2015, 50 in 2016 and 35 in 2017). However, aerial surveys for 2015 and 2016 (I have seen no detailed information about the 2017 cull yet) show that there were fewer moose in the study area before each of those culls.

But the documents I have seen show the number of moose outside the Park boundary has also declined sharply over those years. In December 2014, there were 73 moose counted to the North of the Park boundary. In December 2015, the first year of the cull, there were 80 moose counted North of the Park but by December 2016, only 10 moose were counted North of the Park. To be clear: this means the moose population is declining in the area not included in the cull.

aerial survey moose counts

Aerial Survey Moose Counts. Received in response to an ATIP request to Parks Canada.


I find it hard to trust Parks Canada, when it remains purposely silent about decisions it has made, hoping the public won’t take notice.

When it claims a “simple amendment” to existing documents is all that is necessary to meet the policy requirements for “reinstating” the harvest.

When I continue to see in Parks Canada’s publicly available documents, that killing moose on a Park-wide scale still appears to be a topic for discussion. (See the excerpt from a 2015 Memo to the Minister below which states, “This small-scale plan will help inform a future park-wide comprehensive moose hyperabundance management exercise.”)

memo to min nov2015 says entire park moose removal

Excerpt from 2015 Parks Canada Memo to Minister re: Moose Harvest. Received in response to an ATIP request to Parks Canada.


It’s a possibility I find quite frightening.


Rose Courage was born and raised in Sydney and is a lifelong visitor to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Since retiring from the federal civil service, she has operated a seasonal family craft shop in Indian Brook, Victoria County, with her husband.