Frequently asked questions
- What is the problem in Gros Morne and Terra Nova’s forests?
- How do we know that moose are the problem?
- Why are there so many moose?
- How many moose are there in the national parks now?
- Is the number of moose still increasing?
- Is it too late for the forests to recover?
- What will happen if nothing is done to control the moose population?
- How will Parks Canada reduce and control moose numbers?
- Has a population reduction been attempted in other national parks?
- Did you consider other options?
- Is Parks Canada trying to remove moose completely?
- How many moose must be removed from the national parks?
- Will moose located outside the national parks migrate into the parks and reverse the moose population reductions?
- When did the moose population reduction program begin?
- Will moose harvesting be allowed throughout the national parks?
- Will my fall visit to Gros Morne or Terra Nova be affected?
- How will you know if the moose population reduction has been a success?
- How long will the moose population reduction program last?
- How can I get involved?
- How can I get more information?
1. What is the problem in Gros Morne and Terra Nova’s forests?
Forests in Gros Morne and Terra Nova National Parks are aging and are not being replaced by new trees the way they should. The young trees that usually form the understory of the forest have been browsed so heavily by moose that they just can’t grow. In fact, these young trees that would normally be the next generation of forest are severely damaged, or dead. In addition, tree seedlings that sprout from the forest floor are being browsed as soon as they reach knee-height. The result is that decades after insects killed mature fir trees in some parts of Gros Morne and Terra Nova, no trees have grown back to replace them. Instead, what were fir forests have been turned into grassland or shrub barrens. This has occurred, or is in the process of occurring, in over 65 square kilometres of Gros Morne’s forest and in 13 square kilometres of Terra Nova’s forest.
2.How do we know that moose are the problem?
Moose numbers have increased dramatically since Terra Nova became a national park in 1957, and since Gros Morne became one in 1973. Moose are large animals that can weigh up to 600 kg and each one of them eats approximately 20 to 30 kg of twigs each day. Twigs of trees and shrubs are the most important food for moose in the winter. Surveys throughout the parks over the last three decades have shown increasing damage to forest vegetation as the moose population has climbed. In balsam fir forest, research has shown that moose can remove as much as 98 per cent of the saplings. In areas of mixed hardwood forest, it has shown that moose consume an average 82 per cent of the available browse. Moose are also reducing the abundance of understory shrubs such as wild raisin, chuckley pear, mountain holly, red elderberry, Canada yew and wild raspberry. As they consume, moose are also removing the habitats of other species which is causing a decrease in the diversity of plants and animals living in the national parks.
3. Why are there so many moose?
Moose were introduced to Newfoundland just over 100 years ago. The lack of a primary predator and common moose diseases, along with the absence of competition and an abundance of suitable habitat are factors that have allowed moose populations to thrive on the Island. Until they reached the level at which they started to damage their food supply, there was little to slow their population growth.
4. How many moose are there in the national parks now?
There are an estimated 4,800 moose in Gros Morne National Park, according to the most recent park-wide survey in 2007. In Terra Nova National Park there are approximately 200 moose in the park according to an aerial census completed in 2011. For both national parks these numbers are far greater than what the forests can support.
5. Is the number of moose still increasing?
The most recent park-wide surveys, and anecdotal evidence such as the number of moose encountered along the roads in the national parks, seem to show that the moose populations have declined slightly from their peak in the 1990s. However, surveys of browsed woody plants show that there are still enough moose in the national parks to stop the re-growth of the forest.
6. Is it too late for the forests to recover?
No. There are two different conditions that can describe the current state of the forests in Gros Morne and Terra Nova National Parks: there is forest that has been moderately damaged by moose browsing, and forest that is in such an advanced state of damage that it has already converted to grassland and shrub barrens. The moderately damaged forest will likely recover quickly as moose populations decline and allow trees and shrubs to sprout and grow. However, the grassland and shrub barrens will take many decades and much more effort to restore. Grasses and weeds choke out young trees, so even if seedlings try to grow, they will be in competition with the faster-growing weedy species for nutrients, water, and light. It may require restoration efforts such as tree planting to speed the re-growth of the forest on these sites.
7. What will happen if nothing is done to control the moose population?
The most likely scenario is as follows: the preferred food species of the moose will continue to decline; even larger areas of forest will convert to grassland and shrub barrens; the diversity of wildlife and vegetation will continue to decline due to lack of food and habitat; the growth of non-native weeds will increase; and eventually, the moose population will start to decline as many of them become weakened and starve to death. But, by that time, the long-term damage will be done.
8. How will Parks Canada reduce and control moose numbers?
After extensive public consultations and examination of population reduction efforts in other national parks and protected places, Parks Canada developed Hyperabundant Moose Management Plans for both national parks. One of the strategies identified in these plans calls for volunteers to assist with moose population reduction. Parks Canada will monitor the moose populations and the health of the forests and then adapt the Hyperabundant Moose Management Plans as required to reduce the number of moose to levels that allow for normal forest regeneration. Other strategies to assist forest rehabilitation efforts will include vegetation management activities such as replanting and weed control.
9. Has a population reduction been attempted in other national parks?
Parks Canada has a history of managing over-abundant wildlife species, including:
- White-tailed deer in St. Lawrence Island National Park;
- Fallow deer in Gulf Island National Park;
- Elk in Banff National Park; and
- Bison in Elk Island National Park.
10. Did you consider other options?
Before Parks Canada made the difficult decision to initiate a moose population reduction, the following options were extensively researched and considered:
- Translocation: Physically removing animals from the national parks and bringing them somewhere else is extremely dangerous for staff as well as hazardous for the animal involved in the translocation, and it is not a very practical solution when dealing with such large populations. Studies have shown that the stress from handling and transporting moose, deer, and other large animals causes a high mortality rate. Also, unless these animals are transported some distance away from the park, they may find their way back because while they generally have limited home ranges they will travel further than normal to find their way back to familiar territory.
- Predator reintroduction: Had the animal persisted on the Island past the 1920s, the wolf would have been a major predator of moose. Parks Canada does not have the authority to proceed with the option of re-introducing this predator since wolves would establish a population Island-wide (i.e. beyond national park boundaries). They would then become a provincial matter. There would probably be a strong negative reaction to this option from the public, and the added stress this would cause on already-declining caribou herds is a concern.
- Fertility control: This approach has been attempted for other wildlife populations and has been found to be more appropriate for small isolated populations where immigration of untreated animals is not possible. When used in locations with free-ranging populations, this approach is not effective. There are also no registered drugs available in Canada for moose, and the risk that treated animals that move outside the national parks to adjacent hunting areas could be consumed by humans is a concern.
- Natural regulation: This approach has been used since the national parks were established. As a result of this passive approach, the moose population has increased to the point of damaging the very forest that they depend on for food. The natural outcome for the moose population is starvation but only after the forest has been severely damaged throughout the parks, affecting all of the plants and animals that depend on it.
- Fencing: Building and forever maintaining a fence around large national parks in an area of high snowfall is almost impossible. And even with a fence, the moose population inside the fenced area would still have to be reduced or removed as they would continue to consume large quantities of trees. The fence would also reduce the wilderness character of the parks and restrict the movements of other large mammals such as bears and caribou.
Herding: Physically herding the moose out of the national parks to surrounding lands would be an almost impossible task due to the size and terrain of the parks. It may also be ineffective since the moose could just migrate back in again.
11. Is Parks Canada trying to remove moose completely?
The purpose of this management action is to reduce the moose populations in Gros Morne and Terra Nova National Parks, and not eliminate moose from the national parks. Moose are now “naturalized,” meaning they have become a normal part of the boreal forest of Newfoundland. The goal of the national parks is to only reduce their numbers to a level that is healthy for moose and for the forest on which they depend.
12. How many moose must be removed from the national parks?
Parks Canada will continue to monitor vegetation response as the moose population is reduced over time. The target is to reduce the moose population to numbers that allow the forests of Gros Morne and Terra Nova to begin to regenerate normally.
13. Will moose located outside the national parks migrate into the parks and reverse the moose population reductions?
Moose populations within Gros Morne National Park currently are at much higher densities than in the surrounding landscape. In the beginning, it is more likely that there will be a net movement of moose from inside the park to outside the park, especially given the already heavily-browsed condition of the park forests. If population densities inside the national park were reduced to levels lower than surrounding areas then it is possible at that time that more moose may start to move into the park. Generally speaking, moose have limited home ranges so a relatively small proportion of the moose population would be moving back and forth across the boundary. Annual reproduction probably would cause the biggest increases to moose numbers inside the park.
Moose are known to have limited home ranges, meaning that moose living far outside Terra Nova National Park are not likely to move into the national park. Moose that currently have home ranges that cross the Terra Nova National Park boundary will be susceptible to harvest activities within the park. The likelihood of moose entering Terra Nova National Park on its western boundary is further decreased by the lack of available food in the Park, and because the moose population from Moose Management Area 28 is also being reduced on an annual basis.
14. When did the moose population reduction program begin?
The moose population reduction program began in October 2011.
15. Will moose harvesting be allowed throughout the national parks?
No, it will be restricted to clearly defined areas. Parks Canada has worked in co-operation with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Environment and Conservation (Wildlife Division) to designate official Moose Management Areas (MMAs) that are part of the provincial management system. These areas have been selected in the parks because they have been the most significantly impacted and are at the greatest risk of being lost. No-hunt areas have been identified to ensure visitor safety.
16. Will my fall visit to Gros Morne or Terra Nova be affected?
The MMAs that have been identified, and the dates that have been selected to carry out the population reduction program, are intended to have minimal impacts on visitors. The reduction will begin after the peak visitor season. Additionally, the harvests will primarily take place in areas away from Parks Canada sites and facilities. A comprehensive visitor safety strategy including communications and signage will ensure that the public is well informed of the reduction areas, schedule and activities. All harvesters will also have read and signed an individual agreement outlining their responsibilities during harvesting activities within the national parks.
Visitors are encouraged to contact the Gros Morne and Terra Nova National Park visitor centres prior to their visits to these national parks during the Fall of 2013.
17. How will you know if the moose population reduction has been a success?
Parks Canada staff will regularly monitor the recovery of shrubs and trees, the re-growth of forest, and the size of the moose population to determine whether the population reduction is having the intended effect.
18. How long will the moose population reduction program last?
Once moose numbers are reduced to a level that can be supported by the forest of the parks, the population reduction effort can be scaled back. Because moose have no major predator on the Island, it is likely that some ongoing maintenance of the moose population will be required for the long-term in Gros Morne and Terra Nova National Parks.
19. How can I get involved?
If you are interested in participating in the moose population reduction effort to improve forest health in Gros Morne or Terra Nova National Parks, you may apply through the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s big game licensing system. Information about how to do that is available through provincial information sources such as the Newfoundland and Labrador Hunting and Trapping Guide or the website of the Wildlife Division of the Department of Environment and Conservation. Look for specific information on the MMAs that have been designated in the national parks.
If you are successful in the provincial draw you will receive a permit from the appropriate Superintendent along with your tags and provincial license. Remember that in addition to carrying these three documents, you must also be in possession of the provincial outdoor identification card in order to carry a fire arm.
20. How can I get more information?
If you need additional information, please get in touch with us. Contact Gros Morne at: (709) 458-2417 or, Terra Nova at: (709) 533-2801.