This letter is in response to your letter dated April 28, 2005 regarding white moose protection and relocation.
In your letter, you indicate that my request for a live capture and relocation into a protected area "was being denied". You then indicate that you do "not see the need for genetic preservation" and as such, a regulation to protect them from hunting seems unlikely as well. On this same note, you indicate that you understand the potential social and economic impact that these animals could have for the town of Foleyet and it's surrounding municipalities if proper management techniques are adopted. This can be implied when you state that "We are ... interested in discussing potential options that may adress social and economic considerations of white moose within the Foleyet area ..." .
However, your string of reasoning (as I understand it) seems faulty on the basis that those white moose which are apt to provide the most social and economic benefit are those animals which are most easily accessible to the public. I suggested a live capture and relocation into a large protected park because I feel that this course of action would 1 - Put several of these animals in a very accessible location thus providing maximum social and economic benefits and 2 - Best protect genetic diversity as the site could be used as an active breeding site for the Armstrong Strain - White Moose. However, my requested course of action has recently been denied without any stated reason. While in the park, they could be protected from the ever growing bear and wolf populations, which are steadily rising due to recent political decisions which filtered through the MNR. When moose numbers within the park neared carrying capacity, the animals could be released into the wild. However, at the present time I am willing to discuss the sole matter of a 10 year moratorium and leave aside a relocation project and other protection measures.
I feel it necessary to explore the status quo (involving the lack of special protection from hunters for these animals) coinciding with the possibility of major social and economic benefits from these animals. The problem with your reasoning (as I understand it) is that those animals which are most accessible to the public (and could provide the most social and economic benefit) are those which are most in danger of being shot by a non-local hunter. For example, a white bull was shot (by non-locals) approximately 25 miles upstream of my home on Ivanhoe Lake several years ago, much to the disappointment of local residents who knew it's whereabouts.
As such, any social or economic benefits that easily accessible animals may provide are likely to be short lived without some form of protection for the animals. A minimal level of protection which I, and thousands of others, am requesting is a 10 year moratorium for hunting moose which are more than 50% white in WMU 30 and WMU 31. We should discuss further protection measures once this bare minimal level of protection is met.
Regarding potential social and economic considerations for protection of the white moose in the Foleyet area, I find it difficult to understand why MNR would resist protecting these animals given
1 - The potentially huge amount of employment opportunities that these animals could create if managed properly AND
2 - Forecasts for a drought in local forestry employment due to continuous MNR approval of a regional overharvest of mature timber AND
3 - MNR mandates to create eco-tourism opportunities given the grim forestry forecast.
Further regarding your statement that "we do not see the need for genetic preservation", is this not the same type of alteration which distinguishes the blue walleye from the standard golden walleye? Is this not the same type of genetic alteration which led to a mallard and a black duck or the different species of teal ducks? You also indicate that these white moose are the "result of a recessive gene that appears to exist within a broader moose population, as demonstrated by regular observations over the last 40 years..." Given this line of reasoning, there should be plenty of sightings of white calves with dark cows in the Foleyet area, but to my knowledge, such sightings are extremely rare and have happened once in over 50 years. Hearsay indicates that a brown cow has produced a white calf in the area this spring, but there is no solid documentation of occurence. While it is true that brown calves have been the offspring of the Armstrong Strain - White Moose, the nearly complete lack of sightings (and complete lack of photographs to credit them) of white calves with brown cows does not seem to support your conclusion that this particular alteration "appears to exist within a broader moose population".
Also in your letter you indicate that "we consider these animals to be a natural but rare color phase of an existing and described moose sub-species, and not a separate species". I wondering if the MNR has recently done the genetic testing to determine if your statement if factual or mere speculation. If the testing has been done, a copy of the report would much be appreciated. As of the last Foleyet General Meeting (June 23, 2005), your biologist indicated that such testing had never been done. I feel the need to remind you that different species may sucessfully interbreed (mallards and black ducks) and without ANY genetic testing, there is no way that you can hold out such assertions as factual.
To summarize my letter, I and several thousand other concerned people, am requesting a 10 year moratorium of hunting moose, which are more than 50% white, in WMU 30 & 31 due to extreme scarcity. We feel that this minimal level of protection is asking very little of your department of the government, allegedly designed to maximize social and economic benefit (for the long term) from our natural resources. I strongly disagree with your statement that there is no need for genetic preservation, as I don't believe that evolution has halted.
Please inform me how your office intends to provide economic and social benefits from these animals for the town of Foleyet and its surrounding areas if
1- You do not intend to capture and relocate one or several animals into a park with an active breeding program AND
2- You do not intend to implement a hunting regulation to protect easily accessible animals.
Thank you for your careful consideration,