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Where are the moose?

On the land looking for moose — and one nation’s efforts to bring them back. Plus, some award nominations, a new Sarah Cox book and a podcast miniseries!
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Willie Bertacco's shoulder is out of focus on the left. The camera gives a few of what Bertacco is focused on - a bull elk leaping through the water close to a rocky shore. He faces left, his front legs are on the air, his back legs kick up water. A bullet hole is visible on his shoulder. It's almost the exact second Bertacco made his shot.


One hundred and eighty metres.

That’s how far hunter Willie Bertacco was from the elk, balancing in a boat on Babine Lake, when he steadied his rifle and felled it with a single shot. B.C. reporter Steph Kwetásel’wet Wood, who joined Bertacco and his fellow hunter Mateen Hessami on the hunt last September, was astounded by the precision it took to fell the animal. 

“They let the elk pass in peace, waiting to approach so it wouldn’t panic, and then laid down tobacco in thanks for providing them with food,” Steph told me. “It was a moment that showed how deep the cultural relationships are between the land and the people.”

They weren’t looking for elk, however; they were looking for moose. That day, moose were nowhere to be seen.

Moose have sustained members of Lake Babine Nation for at least 200 years — when they were first introduced onto the territory partly by human activity. Though moose in many parts of British Columbia are thriving, that’s not the case in Lake Babine’s territory or Interior B.C. Like many First Nations, the decline in traditional foods contributes to food insecurity for their people, part of the ongoing legacy of colonialism and resource extraction on their homelands. For Bertacco and other members of the nation, protecting moose is also about protecting their relationship to the species, which includes hunting. 

“People might think that First Nations should stop relying on meat if they want to address biodiversity loss,” Steph explained. “But that just shows how anti-Indigenous racism goes hand-in-hand with the impacts of colonialism on the natural world.”

 
Mateen Hessami stands on the left, looking down on a deer Willie Bertacco is in the process of gutting. Reporter Stephanie Wood stands on the right watching. A big plume of steam rises from the carcass as it hits the cold autumn air.
On the land looking for moose. Where have they gone?

Indigenous communities in Canada have long been blamed for over-harvesting — think about Manitoba’s declining caribou numbers being pinned on the Sayisi Dene community or the violence and racism Mi’kmaq lobster fishers continue to endure. But Indigenous Peoples across the world make up five per cent of the population, and steward 80 per cent of global biodiversity. Their work requires public support. As Hessami told Steph, no one questions the importance of keeping grocery stores stocked in Canadian cities. Ensuring Indigenous populations have access to food is just as important.

That’s precisely why Lake Babine Nation plans to work with the province in managing moose on their territory, applying their wealth of knowledge and familiarity with the region to develop a unique, nation-specific approach. 

The plan to restore moose populations is one way Lake Babine is asserting its sovereignty. And though the details aren’t public yet, the work is set to include predator management rooted in both western and Indigenous knowledge systems.

Steph will keep an eye on the nation’s efforts to ensure its people can continue to access their ancestral foods. For now, go read her in-depth feature, with gorgeous photos by Marty Clemens to boot.

Take care and look out for moose,

Karan Saxena
Audience engagement editor
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A photo of Narwhal journalist Sarah Cox standing with her arms crossed in a grey jacked in the forest

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From the frontlines of extinction


If you haven’t heard, award-winning journalist Sarah Cox has penned a second book — and it was just published this week! In Signs of Life, Sarah spoke with Indigenous communities, ranchers, scientists and even the Canadian military about the decline of nature, and what it will take to save it.

In a Q&A, she says she came away feeling more hopeful than she expected.

Sarah will be at the Central Library in Vancouver next Thursday, April 25, at 7:00 p.m. to talk about all things wildlife protection with B.C. biodiversity reporter Ainslie Cruickshank. Register here!

Matt Simmons, with The Narwhal, walks through an LNG Canada intertidal offset project in Kitimat, B.C.

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Revelling in some good vibes


The Narwhal has earned six award nominations from the Canadian Association of Journalists this year!

We were named finalists for the national awards for reporting on the Greenbelt scandal, oilsands lobbying, environmental infractions related to the Coastal GasLink pipeline, Indigenous communities in northern Alberta affected by tailings spills, building standards amid more hot summers and experimental lakes in Ontario.

None of this would be possible without our 6,000-plus members, who give what they can to support crucial ad- and paywall-free climate reporting in Canada. Want to support award-winning journalists who tell the stories no one else does? Become a member today!

🤍 Become a member

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This week in The Narwhal

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A parched place: the Alberta drought crisis is bigger than one summer
By Drew Anderson
The province says it will soon release its emergency response plan and details on how water will be shared as it runs dry. But Alberta has been outspending the water supply for decades.

READ MORE
 
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READ MORE
 
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Yellowknife to Fort McMurray: lessons from the frontlines of Canada’s worst wildfires
By Jimmy Thomson
READ MORE
 

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What we’re (about to start) listening to


Psst: The Narwhal is teaming up with our pals at The Big Story podcast to go behind the scenes of Ontario’s Greenbelt scandal with Paydirt, a miniseries hosted by reporter Emma McIntosh. 

The Big Story breaks down complex stories every day, but this one needed a bit more than a single episode. So we made three: they’ll come out every Monday for three weeks, starting April 22.

Tune in on your podcast app of choice, or come back to this page on our website — where you can listen to the trailer now!
 
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When you’re waiting for the first episode of Paydirt to drop. Tell your pals about our podcast miniseries and then get them to sign up for our newsletter.

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