Fogo Is­land cari­bou herd has de­clined

The Western Star - - Close To Home - BY ADAM RAN­DALL

If cut­ting the num­ber of hunt­ing li­censes in half can help sta­bi­lize the Fogo Is­land cari­bou herd, that’s some­thing Mayor An­drew Shea is okay with.

Ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Land Re­sources, a 2017 study in­di­cates the is­land’s herd de­clined from 353 cari­bou to 215 in just two years.

Ini­tially, the prov­ince’s 201718 Hunt­ing and Trap­ping Guide is­sued 50 li­censes for the is­land. That fig­ure was amended fol­low­ing the count, re­duc­ing the num­ber of avail­able li­censes to 25.

While the count isn’t typ­i­cally car­ried out on the is­land in two-year in­ter­vals, area feed­back sug­gested a de­cline. Blair Adams, di­rec­tor of forestry and wildlife re­search for the depart­ment, said that couldn’t be ig­nored given the up­com­ing fall hunt.

“If we kept it at 50 when the num­bers have dropped by al­most 40 per cent, then the hunt would have had a big im­pact on the herd,” he said.

Asked why the pop­u­la­tion is in de­cline, Adams said it’s never a sim­ple an­swer when it comes to wildlife pop­u­la­tions, es­pe­cially when cari­bou on the is­land are in good body con­di­tion.

Sug­ges­tions have been made that cari­bou are leav­ing the is­land. But Adams pointed out there are 15 col­lared an­i­mals on the is­land for track­ing pur­poses, and none have left the is­land.

There’s pre­da­tion from coy­otes, with a few re­ported kills, but it’s a hard con­nec­tion to make to the pop­u­la­tion drop­ping so rapidly. Poach­ing is al­ways a con­cern, but en­force­ment doesn’t have any di­rect ev­i­dence of the il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity.

“It’s un­clear why the pop­u­la­tion is in de­cline,” said Adams. “It could be as sim­ple as small pop­u­la­tions with small ge­o­graphic spa­ces be­ing prone to fluc­tu­a­tion, as all it takes is a bit of bad weather or a drop in food sup­ply.”

Shea said the de­cline in cari­bou - of­ten seen roam­ing and brows­ing in and around com­mu­ni­ties — hasn’t gone un­no­ticed by is­land res­i­dents.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

In the span of two years, the Fogo Is­land cari­bou herd has de­clined by nearly 40 per cent. A 2017 sur­vey sug­gests there are only 215 cari­bou left on the is­land.

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