For well over a decade the moose population has declined significantly in the Central Interior Region around the Columbia River. Their hide has been used to make clothing and rope for generations and in more recent years a tiny square of it is worn as a part of the Moose Hide Day Campaign. (Adobe Stock Photo)Chadd Cawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published 19:38 May 05, 2022

By Chadd Cawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

With the Moose Hide Campaign coming up next Thursday, May 12, let’s take a moment to talk about and honour the moose, that icon of our Canadian landscape that struts its stuff in and around the area of the Columbia River. This impressive species is always a big win when seen or even hunted. When driving through the Columbia Valley we often see road signs warning us of moose sightings ahead but the chance of spotting one is not as likely as seeing the deer and Bighorn sheep who love to brave the highway.

While moose are normally known for being abundant. For reasons unknown over the last decade there has been a significant decline in their population in the central interior region of British Columbia. Studies show that the population of moose in this region have declined by approximately 27,500 since 2011. 

This has been a concern for some stakeholders and over recent years there has been efforts for moose management which means restoring depleted populations and increasing numbers across the province. Since this decline moose have been moved to a Limited Entry Hunting (LEH) which allows their numbers to be better managed. 

Past studies show that although the number of moose that once roamed around the Spillimacheen drainage and surrounding watersheds have dropped even though suitable habitat seems to be available. Data has also shown a decline in harvest and hunter success over the last twenty years. An ingrowth of vital habitat increasing wolf population is believed to have played a factor. 

Although that didn’t stop a yearling moose from gaining celebrity status in Cranbrook earlier this year in January when it was spotted roaming streets and napping in backyards. Moose are known to migrate in the bottoms of valleys between the winter and spring. While some like to get elevated in the summer many stay in the valley year-round. 

Moose winter habit examiners have found out that a good way to improve winter forage for these beautiful creatures is by enhancing the growth of preferred browse species like Saskatoon, dogwood, and willow. The dense stands that are found mainly along wetlands and Rivers like the Columbia are vital for moose survival in the winter. Many female moose could be eating for two at this time as data shows that moose calves are normally born around May.

Much like salmon, moose have always been an important food source for Indigenous people. For generations their hide has been used for ceremonial purposes and for the creation of many beautiful things like jackets, moccasins, gloves, and ropes. For the last 11 years a small square of moose hide has been worn across nations to honour women and children who have endured violence. In some Indigenous traditions such as Ojibiwe and Cree moose are looked at as a symbol of endurance and survival. 

When you look at it through this Indigenous lens, it makes wearing a moose hide pin to stand against violence as beautiful as the majestic creature itself. 

This item reprinted with permission from The Columbia Valley Pioneer, Invermere, British Columbia