2019 moose survey results indicate healthy numbers for Cape Breton Highlands National Park moose population

May 27, 2019

Parks Canada is committed to ensuring the long-term health of Cape Breton Highlands National Park's forests. The moose population survey of the highlands of Cape Breton, including Cape Breton Highlands National Park, was led by the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry and conducted in partnership with Parks Canada, the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources and the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq.

The moose population in Cape Breton Highlands National Park has been high since the late 1990s – much higher than a healthy forest could typically support. The hyper-abundant moose population contributed to the significant decline of the forests in the national park as new saplings were unable to grow and provide shade and shelter for a variety of forest species.

The survey is showing a decrease in the moose population across Cape Breton and within the national park. The latest population estimate puts the moose density in the national park at 0.5 moose per square km, which is considered a healthy, sustainable population. This is a positive development for the health of Cape Breton Highlands National Park’s forests.

Parks Canada will be analyzing the data from this year’s Cape Breton highlands moose population survey. Several factors could have caused the moose population to fluctuate. For example, harsh winters could lead to higher winter mortality, there could be lower than usual calving, or less food available as a result of the hyper-abundance of moose within the park. It could be a combination of these factors, as well as some unknown factors.

Parks Canada’s Bring Back the Boreal pilot project, which recently concluded, was a positive step in restoring the health of this important ecosystem by planting tree seedlings, reducing the moose population in a 20 km2 area on North Mountain, and building fences to prevent moose from over-browsing young growing trees. Parks Canada has seen a positive impact on vegetation. Preliminary results are promising, with a statistically significant decrease in browsed twigs and over 57,000 trees were planted as a result of the project.

There was no moose harvest in the national park planned for 2019 and, based on the results of the latest moose survey, further moose population reduction activities will not be considered at this time. The next moose population survey will build on the important data that was collected in this year’s moose survey and help determine the overall trends in the moose population.

Parks Canada will continue to monitor the moose population within the national park with our partners, including the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry.

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Information:

Darlene Doucet
Public Relations and Communications Officer
Parks Canada Cape Breton Field Unit
902-224-4230
darlene.doucet@canada.ca