TORONTO -- Ontario will issue fewer moose tags to hunters this year and delay the start of next year's hunting season by a week across much of the north because of declining populations.

The number of moose tags for resident hunters will be cut by 15 per cent across the province, while the hunting season for moose calves in northern Ontario will be shortened this year.

A total of 11,428 tags will be available when Ontario's moose draw opens April 21.

The Ministry of Natural Resources says Ontario's moose population peaked around 2000, and blames several reasons for the decline: wolves, climate change, habitat loss, hunting and disease.

The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters had urged the government not to reduce the number of moose tags or shorten the season.

Aerial surveys show a decrease in the moose population in 15 of what the government calls "wildlife management units:" seven in the northeast, two in the northwest and four in the southern region.

The province conducted the surveys in 59 of the 67 areas where moose are hunted, and found stable populations in 10 areas and a population increase in one unit in the northwest region.