April 28, 1886
There was much excitement in St. John’s during the last week of April 1886; residents had an opportunity to see a “fair specimen of a bull moose’s head, with antlers” at the ‘Athenaeum’ the local theatre.
Today, a moose would not garner much attention, but in 1886, moose were still unknown in Newfoundland. Moose are not native to the province, moose were imported.
The person who is given credit for the idea of introducing moose into Newfoundland was Captain Richard Lewis Dashwood, a British Military officer and avid fisherman and hunter. Captain Dashwood while on military tour of Canada (1862-1872) visited Newfoundland in 1860. Upon returning to England he published his book Chiploquorgan, or, Life by the Camp Fire in the Dominion of Canada and Newfoundland. He wrote about Newfoundland:
“How I wished that there were moose in Newfoundland! What a place it would be to call on the lakes by our camp. As the moose are now becoming so scarce on the mainland, it would be an excellent plan and one worthy of the consideration of the Newfoundland Government, to turn up moose in the island. They would not migrate like the caribou, but remain in the depths of the forest, far out of the reach of the settlers living on the coast. In a few years they would become numerous, and there is plenty of good feeding ground in the woody parts of the interior of Newfoundland.”
In 1878 just six years after the publication of his book, the government determined to attract ‘big game hunters’ introduced the first bull and cow moose, imported from Nova Scotia. But there was no romance!! The two did not breed!
R. Langrische Mare of St. John’s writing to the Editor of the Evening Telegram in April 1886 reported that he would make another attempt at introducing moose to Newfoundland. He wrote that he had:
“secured, healthy, young animals, bull and cow. They will come down from Nova Scotia as soon as a suitable chance offers, and will, I trust, if protected by the Government, will multiply in the Island.”
These two healthy young moose strolled into Newfoundland history, but there was no romance between them, no breeding.
The 150,000 moose (estimated) that are strutting about Newfoundland today are all descendants of four other moose that were introduced from New Brunswick in 1904.
The bull moose head and antlers that were on display in 1886 at the Athenaeum, that caused such a sensation, were following the exhibit, intended to be placed in the Museum.
Captain Dashwood, who in 1872 argued that the moose would “remain in the depths of the (Newfoundland ) forest, far out of the reach of the settlers living on the coast was so wrong!!
Recommended Archival Collection: Newfoundland Tourist Development Board fonds. Description number GN 51. This Fonds consists of textual records created or contracted by the Newfoundland Tourist Development Board (1936-1949) and by its predecessor organization, the Newfoundland Tourist and Publicity Commission (1927-1936). In particular read GN 51. 11 this report by Lee Wulff submitted to the Newfoundland Tourist Development Board details opportunities for sport fishing and hunting in Western Newfoundland and the Northern Peninsula.
Recommended Reading: Moose Country by Darrin McGrath: Darrin McGrath examines the history of moose on the island from the initial introduction to the economic and social importance of the mooee hunt to the current problems of poaching and coyote predation.
Recommended Song: Got to get my moose: Recorded by Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers: http://www.wtv-zone.com/phyrst/audio/nfld/02/moose.htm