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13. Woodland Caribou---Newfoundland

map of range of woodland caribou in Newfoundland, Saskatchewan, northern Idaho and southern British Columbia
Range of woodland caribou is Newfoundland(extreme
right of map), with a small population in central
Saskatchewan and northern Idaho,
southern British Columbia
This is one of five species of caribou in North America. It is found in Newfoundland, though there are scattered pockets found in Saskatchewan and southern British Columbia. All the caribou are gregarious, traveling in large migrating herds. The woodland caribou of Newfoundland is the least migratory, and small groups are common. The antlers of the woodland are the smallest, probably because they spend more time in wooded areas. Compared to the other species of caribou the antlers are especially small on top (top points), but the shovels (points that come out over the nose) and bez points (located just above the top of the head) are large. Caribou consume tundra plants and eat lichens in winter. They use their large hooves to "shovel" the snow away from the lichens. The meat of the caribou is delicious, and this species has been domesticated by natives of the north (e.g. reindeer) and used for food, clothing, and are a major part of the native culture. This very large bull came from Newfoundland in 1998. It is interesting to note that beginning in the early 2000's, woodland caribou herds have plummeted in Newfoundland. Government studies show that the reason was calf survival had dropped to 10 percent. The predators responsible were black bear and coyotes. Coyotes are relative newcomers to the island, but apparently are hurting the woodland caribou.Over harvesting probably played a small role as well. When I hunted there in 1998 there were an estimated 90,000 woodland caribou. In 2008 they were down to 37,000, and hunting was curtailed a great deal. Indeed, there was talk of closing the hunting season in 2009, something that would have had a tremendous economic impact on the rural economy of Newfoundland. However, in recent years, caribou numbers have increased, creating good hunting and many jobs in Newfoundland. 


Samuel with caribou Though I didn’t know it at the time, I was in atrial fibrillation during this hunt. During the stalk, I passed out, and with my heart beating 200 beats per minute, I was weak and shooting the bow was difficult. We were 8 miles from camp when I got this Boone and Crockett bull and I didn’t get back to the cabin until the middle of the night. Doctors later said I was very lucky that I was not more seriously affected.