The other day we decided to head out and see if we could find some caribou. None of us has ever seen a caribou so we were all pretty excited about the prospect, but we knew that the odds of actually finding any from the road would be slim. To prepare for our quest we learned all about Newfoundland’s caribou population during our morning school time. We read about the subspecies of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus-caribou) found in Newfoundland and even watched an episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom from the 1970’s that showed the monitoring of Newfoundland’s caribou population.
With our knowledge about the species a little bit clearer we set out in the general direction of where the caribou can be found with our fingers crossed. It must have been our lucky day because after just about 5km down the road from the caribou caution sign we spotted some very white objects out on the bog. We were ecstatic as we peered through the binoculars and found that we were in fact looking at our first caribou.
That particular stretch of road was very quiet and while High Five took an afternoon nap the rest of us excitedly passed the binoculars around watching a male and female caribou graze for about 45 minutes. We were all very surprised at the light coloring of the female making her clearly visible for great distances. The male was a bit more camouflaged and could easily blend in as he moved into the trees and shrubs.
When we returned home we read a few articles about the recent decline in Newfoundland’s caribou population. A report by the Canadian Boreal Initiative was really informative and sparked some great discussion about the impact of humans on the caribou. We discovered that the woodland caribou herds in Newfoundland are the only caribou herds in the world that a non-resident can come and hunt. This made us wonder if more revenue is generated from people coming to kill the caribou or people visiting to view the caribou, like the large number of tourists who travel to Newfoundland to whale watch. The younger Fives were pretty certain that humans were involved in the declining caribou population in some capacity. It will be interesting to keep checking the studies and see what wildlife biologists think is happening. However, for now we feel very fortunate to have watched these beautiful creatures in their native habitat.
Not to be left out of the action this moose was standing directly opposite a moose caution sign just up the road from where we watched the caribou.