What it's like to photograph caribou on Fogo Island

·3 min read
Caribou in Joe Batt's Arm, February 2012. (Submitted by Paddy Barry - image credit)
Caribou in Joe Batt's Arm, February 2012. (Submitted by Paddy Barry - image credit)

Wildlife in Newfoundland and Labrador isn't hard to come by, and on Fogo Island, photographer Paddy Barry enjoys taking breathtaking photos of the 350 or so caribou in the region.

And while a herd of hundreds of caribou may sound like a pretty big presence, Barry said they're surprisingly discreet animals.

"They're very majestic and they're very quiet. They don't bark, they don't moo, they don't hiss. They're just really quiet. A lot of times the only noise you hear is the crowd of them munching on the grass, or if you see them running you'll hear their hooves," Barry says.

"But they don't tend to bother each other or make a lot of noise.… There was one time I was out by the ball field in Joe Batt's Arm and I was looking at two or three caribou, but I heard this sort of soft noise and I turned around and there was about 75 of them behind me, and they were just eating grass."

Caribou don't particularly care for human property boundaries. These animals were grazing in Joe Batt's Arm earlier this month.
Caribou don't particularly care for human property boundaries. These animals were grazing in Joe Batt's Arm earlier this month.(Submitted by Paddy Barry)

Barry has been taking photos of the caribou for years, and said he's learned a fair bit about their habits in that time and knows when he's most likely to spot them.

"Caribou are like people, they like to have their breakfast and they like to have their supper.… It's the same with the whales in the summertime, you usually see them first thing in the morning or in the evening."

"Usually in the summertime there's lots of food sources in the forest, so they tend to disappear in the summertime and you don't see them at all, or very little. The times you see them most are in the fall and in the spring, especially in late February, early March."

With a lack of sea ice around Fogo Island this year, Barry said, the caribou were a bit later to arrive than usual.

Caribou near Shoal Bay in March 2015.
Caribou near Shoal Bay in March 2015.(Submitted by Paddy Barry)

But people in the area are used to seeing the animals and stopping traffic to let a herd cross the road.

"Fogo Island is a very big island. It's four times the size of Manhattan, it's 237 square kilometres, so you may see them in any community, but most of the time it's around Joe Batt's Arm, Shoal Bay," he said.

"Where I am down in Tilting you don't see them a whole lot throughout the year, but they come down here in May and have their young out in the big field just outside of Tilting … and they tend to have their young out in the middle of an open field because I guess from that vantage point they can spot the coyotes."

With about a decade of experience photographing the caribou, Barry said his favourite memory was stopping his vehicle once as about 100 animals made their way across the road.

Barry added that caribou are large animals, but finding them for photographs might be a little trickier than you think.

"In the fall they're sort of a golden colour with light highlights and in the winter they're sort of a dirty white with dark patches, and in the summer they're a dark brown," Barry said.

"They're very quiet, so if they're not moving they just look like the rocks that surround them. They always sort of blend in."

Scroll down for even more of Barry's amazing caribou photos:

Caribou walk through a graveyard in Joe Batt's Arm in February 2020.
Caribou walk through a graveyard in Joe Batt's Arm in February 2020.(Submitted by Paddy Barry)

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