Big-game hunting has taken a sharp twist in New Brunswick this year.
Starting this month, hunters who are registering their animals using the new online process introduced this season, will need to extract a tooth from the moose or bear they harvest, and bring it to the nearest Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development office.
"We expect some growing pains with it," said Dwayne Sabine, a biologist with the department.
Before this year, harvest registration only occurred at in-person registration stations, which remains an option for hunters who don't want to remove a tooth or take the measurements themselves.
The teeth will provide data on moose and bear and how healthy they are. They will also help officials understand a lot more about the population growth of these animals.
Moose hunting season was last week, and bear hunting season is underway now and lasts until November.
Teeth age with layers
The goal is to make sure New Brunswick's big game species are part of the province's natural heritage for years to come.
Sabine said the way a tooth ages is similar to what happens with a tree, in that tooth also has rings on the inside.
The process of determining the age isn't as simple as cutting a tree and examining its annual rings on the wood
The tooth "puts on a new layer every year, but it's very, very thin," Sabine said.
Microscopic equipment is used on the tooth to determine the age range of the animal. Then the tooth is sent to a lab to determine the exact age of the animal.
The animals are considered long-lived species. A bear can live up to 30 years, and a moose up to 20 years.
Tooth extractions have been happening in the province for years. But this is the first year hunters will need to do the extraction themselves.
'An easy process'
Tracey Paget got a moose last week with his son Joel, who extracted one of the animal's left side teeth with a knife and pliers.
"He didn't have any trouble," Paget said on Facebook messenger.
The Pagets dropped the tooth off at the Department of Natural Resources office.
"It's an easy process," the father said. "You have 14 days to get it to them."
The province has posted instructions on how to cut the tooth from a bear or moose on its website.
The hardest part will be trying to find the right tooth.
"I'm sure people look in the mouth and there's quite a few teeth there," he said. "Which one's the right one to pull?"
If hunters who choose to register their animals online fail to bring a tooth in, they won't be eligible to apply to the following year's resident moose hunting licence draw.
The draw usually has about 60,000 applicants. Sabine hopes this will be enough incentive for hunters.
"That tooth is quite important for our management process."