Veteran farmer Dwight Eveleigh is used to a moose or two occasionally nibbling at his crops, but he's never seen anything like 2019. "This is the worst year yet, by far," said the owner of Triple E Farms in Comfort Cove. "This year, it's been every single night. Six, seven, eight moose at a time.… I don't think I'd be saying a word of a lie by saying there are 25 moose at least coming through the farm this year."
In decimating about a third of his overall cabbage crop, along with carrots, turnips and parsnips, Eveleigh estimates the moose have cost him about $100,000 this growing season.
In the past, Eveleigh availed of a special provincial permit, granting farmers the ability to shoot moose at night. When he went to get such a licence this year, he was taken aback to discover that it had quietly been discontinued.
Instead, he was told to shoot them during the day, shoo them away, or phone wildlife officers to do the same. "You can drive them off, but they'll only be back again. And they're not out at daytime, so you can't shoot something that's not there," Eveleigh said.
Legislation changes of 2018
The province changed legislation to ban farmers from hunting moose at night in 2018, but Eveleigh and other farmers CBC News spoke to say they were never given any notice of the change.
The closest thing to a public government announcement came Nov. 7 when Gerry Byrne, the Liberal minister overseeing provincial agriculture, accused PC MHA Jim Lester of supporting poachers, and possibly breaking the new law himself, when Lester raised the issue in the House of Assembly.
The Department of Fisheries and Land Resources said it began an "informal engagement" about its moose policies with farmers back in 2015, and ended up changing the rules on shooting at night in 2018. It said farmers were "made aware" of the change directly.
"We've had farmers that clearly knew about this," Byrne told CBC News, although he noted there have been complaints as a result of the change. "Farmers have indicated that they've lost crops as a result. This is not to minimize or to marginalize the impact of this, [but] we've had crop damage many, many times in the past. We will in the future."
Philip Thornley of Campbellton Berry Farm erected two electric fences that he says don't provide enough of a shock to really stop a moose intent on his fruits, which have proved irresistible in the past: "They've done tens of thousands of dollars-worth of damage over the years, and it's very hard to guard against. They only have to sneak in here for a few hours and they can do a lot of damage."
Moose have pruned back his raspberry canes, nipped his plum trees, and munched on his brussels sprouts, sometimes simply taking a bite out of each stalk with that mouthful rendering its value nil.
According to an article on cbc.ca¸ Newfoundland and Labrador has the fewest farms of any Canadian province, and that number is shrinking. While the province has committed to double agriculture production to at least 20 per cent of the overall food supply by 2022, how that squares with the seemingly insatiable agricultural appetite moose have remains to be seen.