Bald eagles have started attacking caribou calves in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to a new wildlife study.

Overall caribou calf mortality on the island has doubled in the last year, said the province's executive director of science, Shane Mahoney.

He said eagles that would normally forage on fish species on the coast such as capelin, but the traditional food source may have been disrupted.

"As we all know, many of these marine systems have been jeopardized and many of the patterns are off kilter," said Mahoney.

"It's possible eagles, in the absence of that food source, have begun to forage more inland and have found these very vulnerable one- to three-day-old caribou which they are proving to be quite capable of killing."

While the proportion of caribou deaths from eagles are not significant overall, Mahoney called it a new dimension scientists had not previously considered.

The number of eagles on the inland has increased thanks to conservation measures and it's possible predation by eagles may intensify.

The eagles kill the calves by pushing their talons into their backs and rib cages, causing the mammals to hemorrhage, the biologist said.

Other caribou predators include coyotes, black bear and lynx.