When moose and man meet, Newfoundland says give the beast right of way

Matthew Coutts
'Yield to the moose,' wildlife expert urges

Newfoundland and Labrador has as love/hate relationship with its moose population, though it is mostly hate when that relationship centres on streets and highways.

There are hundreds of collisions each year involving moose in the province, and an uncounted number of near-misses. Which is probably why it makes sense for those of us behind the wheel to go out of our way to avoid the hulking brutes.

Newfoundland and Labrador's Department of Transportation and Works warns the public to keep an eye open for moose near the highway, and slow down when one is nearby.

Drivers are also told to give moose the right of way, and wait for it to cross the highway before starting their driving again.

Though common sense told most of us that years ago.

A provincial conservation expert said this week that residents should give moose the right of way when traffic and animal inevitably cross paths.

John Blake, director of the province's Department of Environment and Conservation, says as construction creeps into the moose's natural habitat, we will see more confrontations. This, despite a declining population in the province.

"Yield to the moose, obviously, because he or she is much larger than you are," he told CBC News.

This is peak season for moose collisions in Canada, with females tending to give birth to new calves in mid-May, leaving last year's lot parentless and naive.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has taken to warning the public about moose sightings along highways, even releasing an alert on Tuesday reminding the public no to stop and take pictures when they spot an animal.

"This is the time of year that moose are more prevalent in urban areas and can be more aggressive," the warning reads. "They can easily get confused or 'spooked' by people who are crowding them."

Newfoundland and Labrador isn't the only province to have frequent run-ins with moose. Last month, an Ontario man found a baby moose abandoned near the highway and took it to an animal shelter, though not before a visit to Tim Hortons. And a northern B.C. woman was attacked while crossing paths with a moose this winter.

According to a recent University of Northern British Columbia study, urban expansion has "obvious and deleterious ecological effects" on wildlife habitat, specifically that of the moose. This has led to an underestimation of the problems that can come from interaction between moose and human. On one hand, we tend to underestimate the danger moose pose to us; on the other, we undervalue the impact we can have on them specifically in terms of breeding.

The ground rules set out by Newfoundland and Labrador are a good place to start to keep moose safe, but elsewhere in Atlantic Canada there is a novel project that is taking the next step.

A collection of donated plots of land across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick has been deemed a safe zone for moose to live and breed in safety. Called the "Moose Sex Project," the program was recently established to ensure moose could safely migrate from New Brunswick, where the population is health, to Nova Scotia, where the population has dropped to about 1,000.

Human interaction is limited, and highways are entirely absent. Which is a heck of a lot safer than a carload of tourists stopping to snap pictures while a moose crosses the road.

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