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    What happened to Nova Scotia's Caribou ?
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Last of the CaribousBefore the 1600's and the advent of European settlement, moose and caribou were plentiful in Nova Scotia and whitetail deer were scarce.

Now, deer can be seen everywhere foraging in empty fields and along roadsides. Even following the rough winter of 2000 which decimated the deer herds by almost half their former number, 13,000 'anterless deer' hunting licenses were issued by the Dept. of Natural Resources in 2001.

Moose, on the other hand are rarely seen on the mainland, forcing hunters to go to Cape Breton and Newfoundland to 'bag a big one'. Mainland moose have apparently been afflicted by the same fate as the caribou.

Ever wonder what happened to Nova Scotia's caribou and moose? If you immediately thought they've been hunted to extinction, you'd be wrong. Wolves? Coyotes? Wrong again.

Caribou disappeared in Eastern Canada as the result of a parasite, harmless to deer, but transported on their hooves as they travel through the woods and ingested by grazing moose and caribou.

Stephen Clayden of the New Brunswick Museum has written an excellent article for "Elements" about the demise of the caribou, in which he quotes a New Brunswick outfitter:

"The last caribou he saw, in November 1928, was 'walking in circles. I caught and examined it without difficulty,' he notes, 'and the next morning it was lying dead almost in the camp yard. One buck deer and two small bull moose were found in the Nictau Lake region about that time in a similar condition, and all were found dead later.' "

Most residents living at the time assumed that the increase in the whitetail deer population created a shortage of food that crowded out the larger ungulates.

According to Clayden, however, "It was not until the early 1960s that this parasite, a tiny roundworm with the formidable name Parelaphostrongylus tenuis, was first shown to be the cause of "moose sickness."

Reference: "The Last New Brunswick Caribou" written by Stephen Clayden and beautifully illustrated with the etchings of C.C. Ward (from Scribner's Monthly, 1878)



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Highway7 E-zine, a publication of Hatch Media, is an electronic journal with a focus on commercial, historical, cultural and ecological issues concerning the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia in Canada. Topics include a growing resource of currently more than 300 articles. More articles and image galleries are added frequently as new material is brought to our attention. With Highway7.com, our primary aim is to serve, inform and reflect the rural communities on the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia, as well as to acquaint new residents, visitors, tourists, and investors with the special beauty and enormous potential of our region.
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