The moose cull in Cape Breton Highlands National Park remained suspended Thursday for safety reasons, one day after protesters confronted Mi’kmaq hunters in the woods on North Mountain.
Parks Canada said in an email statement late Thursday the moose harvest is temporarily suspended while park officials discuss safety measures with Mi’kmaq representatives.
There was no indication when the hunt would start again.
A spokesman said no one from Parks Canada would be available for interviews, and representatives of the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources either declined comment or did not return phone calls all day.
Late Thursday afternoon, protesters were considering leaving a camp set up along the Cabot Trail outside the park boundaries but vowed to return when the moose hunt resumes, said Dennis Day, a local hunting guide.
“None of the hunters are coming back for the next couple of days, so everybody’s talking about going home and relaxing,” he said.
There was some tension Wednesday when about 30 non-native hunters and residents who live near the park went into a restricted zone where Mi’kmaq were hunting moose and asked them to stop.
But Day said things had quieted down by Thursday afternoon.
Parks Canada authorized hunting in the national park for the first time this year, saying the forest is threatened by the large moose population.
Park officials say the moose population is unsustainable and the animals are eating young trees, turning parts of the forest into grassland, so they have authorized an experimental hunt in a small part of the park to see if it will help the trees grow back.
Under a 2012 agreement with Nova Scotia aboriginal leaders, Mi’kmaq hunters were given exclusive rights to harvest moose in the park when the population reaches a hyper-abundant state.
The protesters say the moose population is not as large as it once was and was reduced by winter kill last year. They say if there is a need to cull animals further, all hunters should have an opportunity to take part in the harvest.
Mi’kmaq officials say they never gave up the right to hunt, and use sustainable methods to harvest moose.