ORONO, Me. — Twenty-five Newfoundland caribou destined to be turned loose in Maine arrived Wednesday after a 1,200-mile trip by truck and ferry through snowstorms and over raging seas, but two others did not survive the rugged trip.
And two of the 25, captured last weekend to help revive a herd in Maine, were so weak that they had to be carried on stretchers from a cattle truck when it arrived at the University of Maine.
Wildlife officials in Newfoundland disclosed that eight more caribou targeted in the roundup had died even before the truck left the wilderness of the Canadian province Sunday.
It was "an unusually high rate of mortality," said Wildlife Division spokesman Rob Greenwood in a telephone interview. He called the deaths "extremely unfortunate."
However, despite the unexpectedly high number of deaths, Greenwood said Wednesday the project was "extremely worthwhile" and that the death rate "does not temper the importance of the Newfoundland-Maine transfer, or transfers in general."
Caribou, similar to the wild and domesticated reindeer of northern Europe and Asia, were once abundant in Maine but vanished around the turn of the century.