A Brief History of the Extinct NL Wolf, and Recent Wolf Captures in NL

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Botwood’s Kevin Strowbridge took up trapping animals as a retirement hobby. Foxes, mainly, but he’s had coyotes on his bucket list for some time now, and assumed he’d finally landed one this weekend. But as he approached his trap it was clear what he’d caught was too big to be a coyote.

It was a 60 pounds, with paws the size of his hands. Despite the fact wolves are extinct on the island, it is presumed he had one in his trap. Unphased, Strowbridge brought the animal to Blue Ridge Hunting Store in Lewisporte, and it has since been taken to Corner Brook for DNA testing.Presumably it came here from Labrador, but no one knows for sure yet.

Other Wolves Found on the Island in Recent Years Have Come from Labrador

In 2009 (Baie de Verde) and 2012 (Bonavista), wolves were stumbled upon and caught by hunters in a similarly surprising manner. In 2014, a wolf charged at a man’s dog in Port Blandford (and was killed for doing so). While 1000+ Coyotes have been trapped or hunted on the island in recent years, wolves are a rare find, having been presumed extinct on the island since 1930.

DNA testing confirmed the Baie de Verde, Bonavista, and Port Blandford wolves were Labrador wolves who had found their way to Newfoundland, as opposed to the native-but-extinct NL Wolf. Polar bears from Labrador have also been known to find their way to the island occasionally, via ice rafts. Ice floes are also how coyotes came to colonize the island.

A longstanding Caribou research project has been testing scat and hair samples for years, and has turned up no evidence of wolves. Dido for a coyote carcass survey. This means, while wolves may occasionally find their way to the island, there is no breeding population here. Yet. Some speculate coyote-wolf interbreeding is forthcoming.

It’s a Myth A Bounty Is Entirely to Blame for the Mysterious Extinction of the NL Wolf

Labrador’s wolves are your standard “grey wolf,” whereas the Newfoundland Wolf (Canis lupus beothucus) was a subspecies of the grey wolf. They were a more medium-sized wolf, with a slender head and distinct dentistry.They roamed the island for thousands of years, particularly fond of caribou.

Aboriginals co-existed with the wolves just fine, but European settlers hunted them for sport and trophy, and found them to be a nuisance: the wolves made easy meals of the settlers’ livestock, and made hunters uneasy in the woods. Especially as caribou numbers dropped on the island.

Eventually, because they made white people uncomfortable, a bounty was placed on their heads. Despite the fact a healthy and unprovoked wolf has never killed a human being in cold blood in North America.

In September of 1839, local government started offering five pounds per wolf head to hunters — a handsome sum of money at the time. Yet, because they were hard to hunt, or people were scared of them, or we respected nature, the record number of wolves claimed for bounty in a single year was 29.

Some years, the bounty wasn’t even in effect. Between 1839 and 1896, the bounty claimed an average of 3.4 wolves/year. And it ended before the year 1900.

For this reason, many argue a sudden demise in caribou population, from 120,000 in 1915, to 6000-ish animals in 1925 might better explain their end. They had been culled, and they had nothing to eat.

Tenacious, The NL Wolf hung in there until about 1930. And have since been presumed extinct, or else, as good at hiding as the elusive Sasquatch. We weren’t very kind to them, maybe they simply packed off to Labrador.

About Author

Chad Pelley

Chad Pelley is an author, songwriter, and journalist who wrote for publications like the Globe & Mail and The Telegraph-Journal before founding The Overcast. Now he spends 25 hours a day keeping up with his email, and has no time to be his former self.

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