MNR upbeat about herd counts

With another hunting season in the books, the Ministry of Natural Resources is proclaiming deer and moose counts to be strong and on the upswing in Rainy River district.
“The deer herds are in excellent shape, and the moose herds are in very good shape in most [wildlife management] units,” said biologist Darryl McLeod of the MNR office here.
“From what we can tell right now, the deer herds are increasing, and the moose numbers are generally stable or increasing,” he added.
Henry Miller, president of the Fort Frances Sportsmen’s Club, echoed McLeod’s sentiments when it came to the deer situation.
“It was a great year for deer hunting, with bigger herds than usual,” Miller remarked. “They were extending their range as far north as Red Lake from what I heard.”
Miller credited unseasonably mild weather as well as logging practices in certain areas for the higher population tally.
“Since deer live on shoots, a mature forest is not a good deer habitat,” he explained. “They do better where there are more clear-cuts, which east and north of here, they had plenty.”
But while the situation seems positive on the surface, local hunter Brian Love had concerns about the future strength of moose populations in the region based on his observations this past season.
“I spent 16 or 17 days hunting this year and while there were lots of moose, there were no calves around,” he noted. “A buddy of mine out in Mine Centre saw a herd of 53 moose and not one calf.”
Love figures former Premier Mike Harris’ cancellation of the spring bear hunt in 2000 is starting to have a negative impact on the quantity of younger moose in the area.
“With the number of black bears up, there’s more of them to prey on the calves,” he reasoned. “On the MNR surveys, they ask about the number of timberwolves and coyotes we saw while hunting, but not about the bears.
“Maybe it’s not politically correct to say anything in favour of the spring bear hunt. But I don’t think the next couple of years will be good for moose numbers,” he warned.
McLeod countered that such thoughts are premature at this point.
“It’s too early to tell until we do our moose aerial inventory,” he said, referring to the above-ground observations that will begin once enough snow accumulates to make the moose more visible from the air.
“We know that last year, calf production was average to above average,” he added.
The aerial surveys will include wildlife management units #11A (beginning in Fort Frances and moving south of Highway 11 to Quetico Park), #12B (beginning in Atikokan and stretching north of Highway 11 and past Mine Centre to the east), #8 (starting in Dryden and covering the area from Cedar Narrows to the Highway 502 area north of Dryden), and #7B (flown out of Kenora and stretching to the northwest corner of the district between Morson and Nestor Falls).
McLeod also encouraged hunters to fill out the surveys issued by the MNR to provide the ministry with the most information possible on the current deer and moose situations.
“Those surveys give us a real indication of how the hunting season went this fall,” he said.