ST. JOHN’S, NL — Small game hunters in the province have a small, furry new target for this fall outdoors: red squirrels.
It’s part of a series of new changes this season.
According to hunting and trapping guidance 2022-23 published by the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture, “red squirrels shall be permitted to be taken with a small game shooting license using firearms and ammunition and/or target shooting equipment. bow allowed for small game hunting. Red squirrels are not allowed to be hunted using traps under a small game license.”
Hunting advocate Barry Fordham was a little taken aback by the addition of the red squirrel, saying it’s almost as if it “sneaked in” for some reason.
“I have no idea where this red squirrel thing came from. I haven’t heard of anyone talking about it in conservation circles or government circles, and they didn’t really publicize anything about it, and I haven’t seen much talk on Facebook about it, or anything from hunters about it,” Fordham said. . “But I don’t listen to everything either, so I don’t know.”
Red squirrels were first introduced to the insular part of the province in the 1950s.
“I have no idea where this red squirrel thing came from. I haven’t heard of anyone talking about it in conservation circles or government circles, and they didn’t really publicize anything about it, and I haven’t seen much talk on Facebook about it, or anything from hunters about it.”
— barry fordham
According to a statement from the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture, licensed trappers have been allowed to catch red squirrels in the province for decades, but this fall marks the first time hunters with a valid small game license can shoot.
“The initial idea behind the introduction of red squirrels in the 1950s was to increase the prey base for valuable fur-bearers, such as the Newfoundland marten, and give hunters access to other fur-bearing species.” read in the statement. “Red squirrels are a popular game species in many North American jurisdictions, and this change will allow Newfoundland and Labrador hunters to take advantage of this abundant resource.
“Red squirrel population numbers are unknown, but the species is ubiquitous and abundant. While the primary goal of this change is to provide hunters with another hunting opportunity, the species has substantial ecological impacts on other wildlife. For example, red squirrels prey on bird nests and reduce seed production in forests. Population reduction will be an added benefit of this change, but there is no set target number to reduce red squirrel populations.”
Red squirrels are hunted in many other North American jurisdictions for food and fur.
Fordham said small game hunters in this province will likely shoot red squirrels for a number of reasons.
“Some people eat them, some don’t. There has been talk of a health warning against it. I read an article where it said there are three possible diseases, but that’s true with a lot of wild game and that’s why it needs to be cooked well,” he said. “Some people would be interested in getting some red squirrels for their tails to use for tying flies. Fly fishermen now have to buy red squirrel tails at stores to tie flies, so this is a benefit to fly fishermen.
“It is certainly good for young hunters as well. Minimum ages are now 12 for small game, 16 for big game, under adult supervision of course, and now that it’s legal to take red squirrels, parents would probably encourage their sons and daughters to take them.”