By KAREN WELLS & BARB SWEET
LEWISPORTE - "A coyote on steroids."
That's how Ewen Whiteway described the 82.5 pound coyote he acquired from Joe Fleming. Mr. Whiteway owns Blue Ridge Outdoor Supply Store in Lewisporte where the massive animal will go on display later this fall once the skin is tanned and mounted.
As was reported on The Pilot website last week, Mr. Fleming shot the coyote between Bonavista and Port Rexton earlier this month.
"I haven't seen anything like it before," Mr. Fleming told Transcontinental Media. "I haven't seen a track like it before.
"I've been hunting for a long time and this is the biggest one I've seen, the biggest one I've weighed."
Mr. Whiteway, who is sponsoring the first annual Blue Ridge Coyote Contest, said most of the coyotes that have been weighed for the contest have come in at around 30 pounds. That being said, there was a 52-pound animal that was brought in the weekend prior to Mr. Fleming shooting this particularly large coyote. But the 82-pound coyote brought in by Mr. Fleming will be hard to beat when it comes to total weight.
Mr. Whiteway introduced the contest not only as a marketing tool for his business, but to also encourage the coyote hunt which lasts for 10 months from September through to July.
"These animals are killing off our caribou and moose," he said. "They are a predatory animal with no natural predators of their own."
An avid hunter himself, Mr. Whiteway said he has seen about 20 coyotes in the wild in his lifetime. He is hearing more and more from his customers that there are more coyotes in virtually every nook and cranny of the province. He has also seen an increase in the number of people who have taken to hunting them as he supplies them with many of the tools coyote hunters use such as electronic coyote callers, ammunition and scent.
Coyote, wolf or hybrid?
The breed of coyote in Newfoundland is known as the eastern coyote, which is believed to have been interbred with wolves during their trek from the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, through the Maritimes and into Newfoundland.
The size of the animal Mr. Fleming shot is something that is causing a lot of discussion in the province.
While the wildlife officials he brought it to in Clarenville believe it is a coyote, photographs of the animal lead people to think it is more wolflike than coyote.
There will be further investigation of the animal carcass including a look into its DNA makeup. The province offers a coyote carcass registration reward of $25 as an incentive to gain access to carcasses to assist with biological investigation of the species. This includes carcass evaluation to assess their diets.
Environment and Conservation Minister Terry French was wondering last week if the creature could be a wolf that crossed on the ice from Labrador, or perhaps a hybrid or the result of a coyote-dog crossbreeding.
"It really is an anomaly," Minister French said, noting most coyotes are 30-35 pounds. "It's so out of character it really is too early to tell."
Mr. Fleming didn't just happen to come across this animal. It was two months ago that he spotted the tracks on the Bonavista Peninsula. After tracking the animal for some time, he finally spotted it on March 12.
He had been using an electronic device for calling coyotes, one that mimics a male coyote moving into its territory. The animal had assumed a fight posture.
"I could see his teeth and his back arched even though he was a long ways off. I could see it through the scope on my rifle and I knew he thought he was coming to fight with another coyote. I guess he was angry," said Mr. Fleming.
"When he got about 180 yards from me, I knew he got my wind. He could smell me in the tree line. He turned to run. And when he turned to run I made a bark at him. That's what you are supposed to do to stop him."
The coyote was 200 yards away when Mr. Fleming shot him. When he got up to the dead animal, he called his brother and friend to help take it out of the woods.
"I could not believe my eyes," he said. "I knew it was big, but when I got close to it and realized the sheer size of it, I was amazed."
The area where Mr. Fleming shot the coyote was on a pole line adjacent to a series of marshes. It was close to an area where he often hunts partridge with his English setter and he's thinking twice about that now.
"I am sure if my dog came across that, it would kill my dog," he said. "It was just massive. Its teeth were huge and its feet were huge.
"It would have no problem taking down a small moose ... Probably this one could take a family member."