Fogo Island caribou herd has declined
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.
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.