Newfoundland Woodland Caribou In Sharp Decline


Published: May - 2008

You may have heard that woodland caribou in Newfoundland are in real trouble. Seems the number of animals in this province has declined by perhaps as much as 3/4. Only five years ago surveys estimated a herd of as many as 197,000 animals. The number today is about 37,000. Because of this, nonresident license numbers have been slashed 80 percent from 2,000 permits to only 400 for the 2008 season. We have that from Dan Chaisson of Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism (www. newfoundlandlabrador.com). So far, only one of 19 caribou management areas has been closed to hunting, but more closures may be on the horizon.

So, what's behind the crash in woodland caribou? A combination of factors seems to have converged to devastate this species. First of all, biologists say that caribou herds seem to have a natural cycle in which their numbers build to a peak then crash. The last time New- foundland's herd crashed was in the late 50s/early 60s when the number of animals got down to 5,000. The hunting season was closed for about 10 years back then. Chaisson says biologists believe that heavy predation from coyotes, which first arrived in Newfoundland about 20 years ago, and from a growing black bear population has significantly increased pressure on the caribou and they think this has accelerated the downturn in their population cycle.

Newfoundland's Department of Environment and Conservation is busily working on a caribou recovery program plan. Chaisson says upwards of 15.5 million dollars from various private and government sources will be poured into the plan's implementation.

As for this coming hunting season, Chaisson says there are still good hunting opportunities for 2008 with the chance of taking a quality bull. He says, however, that hunters who have a woodland caribou on their list of desired trophies should not wait to get one. Although no one has suggested closing woodland caribou hunting yet, he says it is one of several possible moves to recover this population.

........(continued)

 
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