A funeral was planned Wednesday for RCMP Const. Derek Pineo, who was killed last week when his cruiser hit a moose while responding to a call near Wilkie, northwest of Saskatoon.
Saskatchewan Environment Minister Ken Cheveldayoff says the animals are being drawn south as farms expand in size and the threat of human interaction shrinks. There's ample water and food and a lack of predators.
The government estimates there are 50,000 moose in Saskatchewan and about 5,000 of those now live south of Prince Albert, where the vast, sparsely populated forest gives way to fields and a network or highways and grid roads.
"It is quite a serious concern," Cheveldayoff says. "With the increase in moose population come the increase in chances of collision."
A decade ago it was rare to see a moose in the south — there were probably fewer than 200, estimates Chuck Lees, wildlife manager with the Ministry of the Environment. Officials are now trying to come up with ways to control the numbers.
A total of 2,650 hunting licences were drawn in the south this year, up 455 from the previous year.
Currently, the province is looking at controlling the population only through hunting. A cull would be a more extreme step and Cheveldayoff says the department is not at that point.
Saskatchewan Government Insurance, the province's Crown-owned insurance company, doesn't keep track of the number of moose collisions reported each year, but Cheveldayoff says he is going to ask that it start.
There were slightly less than 16,000 wildlife-related claims last year, according to SGI. Of those, 11,015 involved deer. There were 304 injuries reported and two deaths related to wildlife crashes. The total damage cost was $47 million.
Spokeswoman Rebecca Rogoschewsky says those number have been fairly stable over the last few years. Still, she says the corporation is willing to track moose-specific data if the government thinks it will help.
Darrell Crabbe, executive director of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, says there is no simple solution to the southern moose issue.
Large moose populations pose the most problems on rural properties in the areas around larger cities such as Regina, Prince Albert and Saskatoon — not the easiest places to hunt, he says. Hunters will often face push-back from acreage owners who see moose as welcome additions to the landscape.
"There's a lot more to the issue than 'should we go kill all the moose in southern Saskatchewan?'," Crabbe said. "It's a difficult problem."
— By Tim Cook in Edmonton.