Newfoundland Wildlife - Lives on Land

Masked Shrew (Sorex Cinereus) Native to Labrador introduced to Newfoundland
Not quite a mouse

This tiny animal was brought to Newfoundland in 1958 to serve as a check on a forest pest, the larch sawfly. One year after the original 22 animals were released, 130 shrews were recaptured at the release site. Since its introduction, this fast-spreading insect eater has travelled across the Island and is now found almost everywhere. The shrew, which is native to Labrador, has a great appetite, sometimes eating its own weight or more a day. It's heart can beat over 800 times per minute.

Hawks and owls enjoy eating shrews, and shrews are often found in the stomachs of large trout and ouananiche (land-locked salmon). The shrew's fast reproductive rate helps to compensate for a short lifespan, which is usually less than two years. Litters of up to eleven young can be produced several times a year. Shrews are constantly eating; they nap but do not have long periods of sleep. if forced to go without food for a few hours, they can starve to death. Newfoundland's smallest mammal weighs less than 6 grams. It is identifiable by its pronounced snout and small size.


Meadow Vole (Field Mouse) (Micotus)
Cute one

This small animal is also known as the field mouse. it has small fur-covered ears and a short tail. Its dense fur can vary in colour from rusty brown to dusky grey. It is found in almost every provincial habitat - forest, bog, barren, and meadow. Voles make a series of tiny runways by trampling down grass and other plants. These are their highways, which serve as travel routes between the crevices and burrows used for dens and the feeding areas where they gather seeds, berries, leaves, grasses, and insects. In winter, the voles travel using tunnels dug through the snow.

Voles are eaten by many larger animals including birds of prey, foxes, mink, lynx, marten, weasels, and coyotes. The number of voles in an area can increase and decrease dramatically over a few years. This animal has a very fast reproductive rate. Females can have five or more litters a year with up to nine young produced per litter. Two weeks after birth the young are weaned and able to travel their secret highways in search or food. Meadow voles are found throughout all of Newfoundland and Labrador.


Mink (Mustela vison)
Ole water-dog

This large, dark-coloured weasel is native to Labrador. It was brought into Newfoundland and distributed to fur farmers during the 1930s. Escapes and a government program of introductions during the 1940s have enabled the mink to spread throughout the Island.

Mink are frequently seen near lakes, streams, and the coast. They have partially webbed feet and are excellent swimmers able to travel thirty or more metres underwater. In winter they also swim under the ice. Fish are a major part of the mink's diet; but they also eat berries, birds, hare, and rodents. Along the coast mink eat crabs, mussels, and other marine creatures. The introduction of mink to Newfoundland has been blamed for dramatic declines in populations of frogs, muskrats, and certain birds. Although there is debate about how much blame the mink deserves, they have had devastation effects on tern colonies where they swim out to coastal islands, kill every egg or young bird, and force the adults to seek new breeding sites.

The mink shares the same slender body shape as the ermine or short-tail weasel but is much heavier, with large males weighing close to 1.5 kilograms. They can be a real nuisance to farmers who keep chickens, but they also help keep rat and mouse numbers down.


Moose (Alces) Native to Labrador - introduced to Newfoundland in 1904
Moose riding

Classic NFLD moose photo

This ungainly mammal is the world's largest living deer. It is found throughout most of the northern forests of Canada. It was not native to Newfoundland but was introduced here on two different occasions. In 1878 a bull and a cow were brought from Nova Scotia and  released at Gander Bay. In 1904 two bulls and two cows from New Brunswick were released near Howley. The story of how the New Brunswick moose were captured is told by John Nowlan of Chatham, New Brunswick . By 1920 moose were being recorded in good numbers over fifty miles from Howley. By 1935 moose occupied much of the island. In 1941 moose were first reported from the Avalon Peninsula.  The population is now more than 160,000 animals.

That a healthy population of animals has arisen from such a small original population raises some interesting questions about the concept of genetic bottlenecking.

While most active during the twilight and early dawn, moose may be observed abroad at any time of the day or night. They are solitary animals. However during the summer several moose may occupy the same pond or marsh to feed on aquatic vegetation. They feed independently afterwards returning to their solitary existence. Moose are good waders and swimmers. In addition to aquatic vegetation, the summer diet also includes broad leaved trees, shrubs and grasses. In winter balsam fir is a diet staple but bark peeled from a number of other tree species as well. In areas of deep snow, favourable feeding

The rut or breeding season begins about the middle of September and may continue until late October. During the rut the bulls seek out the cows. At this time the bulls are very aggressive and curious, investigating every sound in the woods. After a gestation period of about 245 days a calf (rarely more than one) weighing approximately 30 pounds is born in  late May or early June. The young moose remains with its mother throughout the winter but is driven away just before the mother calves again in the spring. At this time the yearling may weigh 400-500 pounds. The majority of moose breed for the first time in the fall following their second birthday. Two year old bulls compete for the cows but the older  bulls usually drive their younger competitors away. Not all the cows bear young every year. 

Antlers are shed during the winter, older animals losing their larger sets first. Early spring sees the new antlers beginning to grow, reaching full size in August. This large animal has a relatively small home range - the entire summer may be spent in a hundred acre area. During the rut the males range over a much larger area. In spring young moose occasionally wander into St. John's and have to be tranquillized and returned to the woods. A collision with a moose is a very real possibility for every driver on the roads of Newfoundland, especially at night. 


Muskrat ((Ondatra zibethicus)
Smiling for the picture...

The muskrat gets its name from the two glands near its tail that secrete a musky smell. it resembles a large field mouse or rat with dark brown fur, large feet, a long black whip- like tail, and a weight that rarely reaches 1.5 kilograms. The small, conical twig and reed houses of the muskrat are found all over the province, from St. John's to the tree line; but most of the province's muskrats live in burrows. When houses are built they resemble a small beaver lodge and feature an underwater entrance. Often five or more related animals will live together in the lodge or den.

Muskrats seldom venture far from the water. Their favourite foods include a variety of aquatic plants, freshwater clams, and an occasional fish. During a summer the female can have two or three litters of up to 14 young. After a month, the young are weaned and start to forage on their own. Muskrats are active all year long, but some of the best viewing occurs in the fall as house or den building is in full swing and young adults are wandering about looking for new home sites.

The muskrat is a favourite food item of foxes, lynx, mink, hawks, and other predators. The fast rate or reproduction allows the muskrat populations to withstand these dangers.


Pine Marten (Weasel) (Martes)
This cute guy will keep you rodent-free

This secretive, cat-faced animal is in danger of disappearing from Newfoundland. It is found in western Newfoundland near Little Grand Lake and perhaps in some other areas. Some individuals were reintroduced from this population to Terra Nova National Park where they continue to be seen occasionally. Trapping, habitat destruction, accidental capture in snares, and the Island's limited variety of prey items have removed the marten from most other portions of Newfoundland. The Salmonier Nature Park is involved with a captive breeding program for this endangered mammal. Excerpt for the northern tip, healthy populations of marten are found throughout Labrador.

The marten, often referred to as the pine marten, eats small rodents, squirrels, hares, birds, and insects. Their favourite food in Labrador, the red-back vole, is absent from Newfoundland. Marten often hunt along the runways or runs of snowshoe hares where they have fatal encounters with snares set by hunters. They also spend considerable amounts of time in the trees. The pine marten is about the size of a small house cat. It has brown fur with yellowish to reddish coloration. The throat has a distinctive yellow-orange patch, and the head appears slightly small for the body. Large males may weigh two kilograms.


Polar Bear (Ursus Maritimus)
Give these guys a Coke

During the spring ice floes from the north sweep down along the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. This is where millions of harp seals and thousands of hood seals are born. Polar bears are part of this spring-time event as they travel along the ice floes in search of prey.

As the pack breaks up, the seals all take to the water and return north. Polar bears, like the seals, are very strong swimmers capable of travelling hundreds of kilometres without approaching land. They do, however, enjoy the opportunity to haul themselves up on the land for a rest. During the spring as the ice breaks up, polar bears sometimes come ashore along the coast of Newfoundland and southern Labrador. If left undisturbed they simply make their way back to their northern home. The polar bear's fearsome reputation as a hunter of humans makes these infrequent visits the subject of great concern. In recent years, many coastal communities, including St. John's (particularly a lucky bingo hall!), have been visited by polar bears.

If a polar bear is spotted it should be avoided and reported to the wildlife authorities. Polar bears near communities have been captured and transported to northern Labrador, although most of these northern visitors stay long enough to rest before heading back home. Polar bears live year-round in northern Labrador, and all travellers to this part of the province should go prepared to encounter this powerful animal, which will hunt a human like a cat will hunt a mouse.


Red Fox (Vulpes Vulpes Linnaeus)
Beautiful Animal

The name "red fox" is misleading since the coloration of this common provincial animal includes black, yellowish, silver, and mixed-colouring individuals together with the more famous red foxes. All these colour variations may occur within the normal littler of five to six kits. The young are adult-sized at the age of six months and start their own families in their second year. This slender, dog-like animal features a white-tipped bushy tail measuring approximately one-third its entire length; and a sharp, pointed face with erect ears. Underground dens are usually dug out by the fox's sharp claws, although sometimes large hollow logs are put to use.

Red foxes are found throughout Newfoundland and Labrador in all types of habitat. Their diet is quite varied. In the fall it includes fruits and berries, although meat, including voles, mice, squirrels, birds, bird eggs, insects, and hares, tend to be favourite dietary items. Along the coast, the red fox preys on seabirds and scavenges dead fish. Given the opportunity, a hen house or a source of human food will not go unexplored.

Every year foxes are attracted to roadsides by litter. People stop to watch them, throwing food to the ever-opportunistic fox. This leads to bitings, traffic jams, and injured foxes. The Parks Canada slogan "A Red Fox is a Dead Fox" is an unfortunate truth for the foxes that scavenge along the highways and near human communities. Foxes are commonly seen in our National Parks, coastal headlands, and many other areas of the province. Cape Spear (the most easterly point in all of North America), near St. John's, plus the National Parks, are the province's most popular fox spotting locations.


Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus)
Happy Easter

Snowshoe and arctic hares occupy this province, but the larger arctic variety is rare on much of the island of Newfoundland. These hares are being reintroduced to parts of the island in an effort to increase their numbers. Arctic hares are presently found in the Northern an Southern Long Range Mountains, on the Buchans Plateau, and Brunette Island of Newfoundland. These hares are found all along the eastern portion of Labrador, with their range extending farthest inland in the center of the mainland.

Snowshoe hares are not native to Newfoundland; they were introduced there from Nova Scotia between 1864 and 1876. Snowshoe numbers are highest in the interiors of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Both hunting and snaring hares is legal in this province. Arctic hares cannot be hunted in Newfoundland. During a recent season snowshoe hares could be hunted October 1 - March 12 on the eastern Avalon Peninsula and Bonavista Peninsula. Snowshoes are normally only legal to take between October 1 - December 31 on the rest of the island. Both Arctic and snowshoe hares can normally be hunted October 1 - March 31 during regular season in Labrador.


Wolf (Canis lupus beothucus)
Lock up Aunt Martha's sheep

The Newfoundland Wolf became extinct around 1930. It was hunted and trapped out of existence; partly because of its fearsome reputation as a livestock killer, partly because of the bounty on its head, and partly just for sport. Indeed, wolf numbers did appear to decline, somewhat, towards the end of the last century. The main factor may have been the decline of the Newfoundland caribou population, from 120,000 animals in 1915, to around 5,000animals in 1925. By 1925, there may have been only 30 wolves on the whole island, five years later they were all gone.


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