Native use of moose and woodland caribou in the Cat Lake Band area, Northwestern Ontario
Hamilton, George D.
Master of Science
SubjectCaribou Ontario Cat Lake Region
Caribou hunting Ontario Cat Lake Region
Moose Ontario Cat Lake Region
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This study was aimed at providing an objective analysis of native hunting of moose (Alces alces) and woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in the Cat Lake Band Area, an isolated area of some 11,560 km [superscript 2] in northwestern Ontario. Specifically, the study was designed, to; 1) assess big game population levels and trends; 2) quantify native harvest; 3) assess sport hunting for moose; 4) assess the inportance of big game to the people; and 5) gain an understanding of the attitudes regarding wildlife management and conservation held by Cat Lake trappers and hunters. Sources of information were: 1) data from 5 aerial surveys dating from 1977 to 1980; 2) government native and sport harvest data; 3) a detailed interview involving 44 Cat Lake trappers and hunters. Aerial survey results were highly variable and imprecise for both moose and caribou, making interpretation risky. There was however, some indication that moose had declined during the study period. Ratios of moose;caribou calculated from transect surveys were near 2.2;1. Government records of native harvest indicated that local trappers took 26 moose and 6 caribou during the 1979-80 season, with 4 of the moose being taken from outside the Band Area. Results from the detailed interviews suggested that actual harvest was closer to 50 moose and 10 caribou, with 4 of each species taken outside the Band Area. Government records of sport harvest within the Band Area indicated a total of 21 moose taken during the 1979 hunting season. Enquiries directed towards tourist outfitters and native trappers revealed an additional 2 moose taken by non-Indians. Interviews with native trappers and hunters indicated that moose were perceived to have declined in numbers, while caribou were thought to have been approximately stable. A majority of men believed overhunting, particularly by sport hunters, to have hurt the local moose population. Moose were overwhelmingly preferred over caribou as a game animal; caribou appeared to generate relatively little interest or hunting effort. One instance of overhunting of caribou was recorded, however. In early 1977, at least 65 animals were taken, primarily by 4 hunters. Snowmobiles contributed substantially to hunting success. Complaints of wastage were voiced and the overall consensus was that the harvest had been excessive. Wild foods apparently provided more than half of the protein in the diet of the Cat Lake people. While store-bought meats were the largest single item, moose meat made up an estimated 28% of the total; caribou contributed only 2%. While most men hunted primarily for subsistence reasons, non-subsistence (aesthetic) values were also strongly in evidence. Most hunters made comments indicative of a concern for wildlife conservation. A wide variety of approaches was suggested, including traditional, non-scientific views. In general, however, there was no consensus, and it appeared that there had been little attention directed towards the problem of positive wildlife management. The most consistent view was that total (native and sport) moose harvest was excessive, a perception that was corroborated to some extent by aerial survey and harvest data.