Although an aerial survey for moose in two areas near Kelowna last month indicated there are more animals than estimated by the government in setting hunting seasons, there are no plans to lengthen the regular open hunting season.
Wildlife biologist Brian Harris with the natural resource operations ministry, said based on the unofficial data from those flights, there still are fewer than the ideal number of bulls to cows in each of the areas surveyed.
He admitted there were good numbers—more than he’d earlier estimated—of moose in Wildlife Management Region 8-11 on the Westside, but still fewer than 30 bulls to 100 cows.
There were also better numbers than he’d expected in the Aberdeen Plateau area on the other side of the lake, but fewer than the ideal ratio.
Moose hunting seasons were reduced and opened later last year to avoid hunting during the rut when bulls are vulnerable, because of concerns about populations.
The same opening dates will apply to the regular season for next year, said Harris.
However, he said there may be increased opportunities for Limited Entry Hunting next year, opportunities for which hunters must enter a draw process to be awarded special opportunities outside the regular season.
The draft report from Kim Poole, a consultant with Aurora Wildlife Research, indicated there is a ratio of 25 bulls to 100 cows in the one management unit on the Westside and 28 bulls to 100 cows in the Aberdeen Plateau area.
However, Harris said he is concerned that increased logging due to the infestation of mountain pine beetle is opening up both forest cover and access roads in forests in the Okanagan, leaving moose vulnerable to hunting pressure.
Until there is more green-up, he said they will continue to be vulnerable.
As well, he said there are concerns that moose in the Okanagan tend to be genetically-related to the smaller Shiras moose from south of the border, which also have smaller and slower-growing antlers.
Because of this he believes that even some three-year-old moose can still be spike fork moose, which normally are yearlings.
The hunting season is open only to spike fork moose in this area, with the idea that they are yearlings.
The moose survey was conducted largely at the expense of local fish and game clubs, the Okanagan Region Wildlife Heritage Fund Society and the Okanagan Region B.C. Wildlife Federation, because budget cuts have prevented the natural resource operations ministry from paying for such monitoring in recent years.
The draft report is currently being reviewed.