By The Western Star
Deer Lake, Newfoundland
and Labrador — Local outfitters suggest
different reasons for the decline in caribou numbers, but snowmobiling, they
say, is not one of them.
A recent column in the St.
John’s Telegram suggests that disturbance by
snowmobiles are playing a role in the declining numbers of woodland caribous
because they have to dig down through the snow to find food in winter.
When they are disturbed, they have to move on and start over
again, wearing them down and making them more susceptible to predators.
The column mentions that some are stating coyotes as the
reason for the decline.
Howley outfitter Ray Broughton is one of those. He maintains
these are not your average coyotes from the American southwest. In fact, he
said, they aren’t 100 per cent coyote.
“What we have here is a hybrid coyote that has bred with the
eastern timber wolf, “ he said. “We’ve taken coyotes upwards of 65 pounds, so
to me they aren’t coyotes, they’re little wolves, this is a very efficient
He said these types of coyotes prey on caribou in much
greater numbers are able to kill a lot more than they would if they were
regular coyotes, which weigh much less.
“If it’s the snowmobilers, to me on a scale from one to 10,
I’d give it a one in terms of effect (on caribou)” he said. “Maybe there could
be a factor from the weekend cowboys and the young riders with high performance
machines but even then, not much.”
Daniel’s Harbour outfitter Leander Brophy said he doesn’t
believe snowmobiling has much of an effect as well, and blames government
interference for the declining numbers.
“They let the population get too high, they were protecting
them and it turned into overprotection,” he said. “They were not issuing enough
licences and (the caribou) overgrazed and overfed.”
Brophy said the coyotes aren’t helping, and bears are a
factor as well.
“The government is talking about a high mortality rate on
calves and fawns, and the ones they’re collaring, it’s averaging out to 50 per
cent bear kill and 50 per cent coyote kill,” he said. “There are snowmobilers
are chasing them, I don’t agree with them doing that, but in my opinion it’s
overgrazing that is killing off the caribou.”
Government reports show the coyote may have showed up in Newfoundland as late as 1985, and a coyote carcass was
first discovered in 1987 in Deer
Lake according to one
government publication that was released in 2006.
“Coyotes range of expansion have gone from the United States
all the way up here, how did they got here is a good question,” he said. “Since
1985 the population has just exploded.”