A hunter on Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula says the region's moose population has dropped dramatically — and what's left seem to be sick.

John Butt recently spent days in the woods and saw just one moose, which was diseased and had wasted away to just skin and bones.

"I've seen a drastic reduction in the number of moose, and I've been hunting up there for 15 years," Butt told CBC's On the Go on Wednesday.

'I don't know what kind of parasites they are, but I know I'm not going to eat the moose.' - John Butt

Years ago, he said, it wasn't unusual for him to see 28 to 30 moose over the span of four or five days. But a trip earlier this year with two licences saw just one of them filled. A two-day trip in November proved fruitless.

On Monday morning, Butt shot a cow moose, but there was something wrong with it.

"The guy that was with me said, 'My god, the ribs are sticking out.' And when you lift up the hindquarters, there was nothing to it."

Took carcass to Wildlife

Butt and his hunting partner cleaned the moose, astonished at how thin it was.

"I haven't weighed the moose, but I'd say it's probably 40-pound quarters. Now, this is a full-grown cow moose," he said. "The muscle had actually waned away in the hindquarters. It was concave instead of being convex. It had sunk in."

The hunter said he's heard reports of other diseased moose, including one that passed on a parasitic infection to someone who cleaned it, so he took the carcass to the provincial Department of Wildlife.

"The provincial vet tested the liver, and the liver was full of parasites," he said. "I don't know what kind of parasites they are, but I know I'm not going to eat the moose. I just turned it back in to them."

With files from On the Go