Nova Scotia Hunter Safety Course

 

Appendix A: Wildlife ID

Being able to properly identify wildlife is a keystone of being a safe and ethical hunter. Every hunter must have basic wildlife ID skills in order to know which species is legal to harvest while out in the field.

Woodland Caribou

Caribou

The Island of Newfoundland contains the southernmost herd of woodland caribou. Labrador shares, with Quebec, the largest caribou herd in the world – the George River caribou herd.

Woodland caribou are found in barren open areas and northern coniferous forests. They browse green plants in bogs and low-lying grassy areas in summer and migrate, in winter, to areas where evergreen shrubs and ground lichens are available.

Caribou are large animals often reaching 120 cm at shoulder height. Adult males weigh 150 to 275 kg. Male caribou are generally dark brown with white areas on the belly, rump and lower legs and a long creamy white mane from throat to chest. Females are lighter coloured and smaller. Both sexes have antlers. Adult bulls shed their antlers in November or December after the breeding season, but females and younger animals often carry small spindly antlers through the winter.

Caribou have large, concave hooves that splay widely to support the animal in snow or muskeg. These hooves also function as scoops that help the caribou paw “feeding craters” to uncover lichens sometimes buried under a meter of snow.

During the breeding season from late September to late October adult bulls may collect a harem of 20 or more cows. Cows give birth to a single calf in late May or early June.

Predators include lynx, bear, coyote and particularly wolves in Labrador. The caribou relies almost completely on its sense of smell to detect danger. Hunters should remain downwind of the herd when stalking. Though not known to have great eyesight, caribou are quick to notice movement.

Because they eat lichens, caribou survive in areas that will not support similar numbers of other large mammals. Wisely managed, caribou can be a continuous resource.

 
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