Modern methods can answer a multitude of questions, but sometimes traditional techniques are superior. Authorities in northern Quebec, Canada, found this to their cost, when they relied upon statistical data to monitor moose populations.
For many centuries the Cree, an indigenous group of people living in the James Bay region of northern Quebec (around 800km north of Montreal), have lived in harmony with their environment. They hunt a variety of animals including beaver, bear, and moose, killing just enough to feed and clothe themselves. By rotating the territories over which they hunt, and only killing adult animals, they ensure that the animal populations always remain stable.
Until the mid 1980s the James Bay region, at the southern end of Hudson Bay in Canada, was inaccessible to most, and the Cree were the only people who hunted in the region. However, in the mid 1980s, following pressure from sport-hunting and fishing groups, the Canadian authorities granted access to the region (via a previously locked road, known as the James Bay highway, which had been constructed for a hydro-electric project).
Sport hunters travelled from far and wide, hoping to bag a few moose. "At the time wildlife managers were eager to open up access to this region, as they believed it would relieve the pressure on hunting grounds further south," said Colin Scott from McGill University, who led the team documenting these changes.
To ensure that moose populations remained stable the Canadian authorities relied on aerial surveys to monitor moose numbers in hunting territories. In addition records were kept of the number of moose caught by each hunter, and the time it had taken to catch them.
By the late 1980s the Cree people became concerned about the moose numbers, particularly in 'Zone 17', one of the hunting territories in the James Bay region, covering an area of several thousand square kilometres. Using their system of monitoring
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European Science Foundation