Wolf/Moose Drama on Crocodile Lake

Strong winds left many canoeists windbound over the past few days all over this area of the BWCA.  As the winds subsided this morning and paddlers began to make it back to the lodge, many adventurous tales were shared. 

One of the more interesting stories came from a couple who waited out the wind on Crocodile Lake.  Since early July, when the Lyzhoft family took this moose picture on the north arm of East Bearskin Lake, our guests have been reporting sightings of a moose cow and two calves.  The moose family was first regularly spotted on the BWCA end of East Bearskin Lake; more recent reports were that they were living closer to Crocodile Lake.  (Of course, these could be 2 different moose families, but the trend in sightings seemed to indicate gradual movement towards Crocodile.)

Yesterday, while waiting out the wind on Croc, a couple saw a moose cow and two calves being chased by a pack of wolves.  A large black wolf was in the lead, with two other wolves following.  Using binoculars, they could see that the wolves had already come close to catching one of the calves.  There was a large red gash on the rump of one of them.  The moose family ran along the shoreline on Crocodile with the wolves in hot pursuit.  It was quite memorable, and a bit disturbing, to watch.  Fortunately, it appeared that the moose family escaped – or at least everyone hopes that’s how it really turned out.  We’re eager for somebody to return from Crocodile soon with a photo of a moose cow and her two safe calves.

Summer, summer, summer

Our 2 year anniversary of buying Bearskin Lodge came and went on July 20th. As usual, we were way too busy running a resort to celebrate the day.  But surprise, surprise, 2 years have gone by and Bearskin has survived us. We know of many resorts that are having a tough summer so we’re endlessly thankful for our loyal guests who return year after year after year. 

It’s been a summer of good fishing.  Of all the surprising fish this season, this fish is probably the biggest and best.  The 31 inch walleye was caught by Harley Handegard (who does take his fishing pretty seriously) in a “not-to-be-disclosed” location. 

Big walleye, caught by Harley Handegard
Big walleye, caught by Harley Handegard


Moosilyn, our moose mother with her calf, has not been sighted on the resort for about 3 days now.  We don’t know if we miss her or are relieved.  Many guests who checked out last weekend reported they had  somewhere between a hundred and a thousand pictures of our moose.  She provided almost a month of great resort entertainment, sort of a Disneyesque “Moose World” for our guests.  But it did get a bit old for some guests to stay perpetually on alert for an immense animal crashing and crunching around their cabin.  Brandon spotted Moosilyn and her calf back by the brush pile yesterday, which may be a better spot for her.

The moose and her calf, in the garden behind the lodge
The moose and her calf, in the garden behind the lodge


Everyones a photographer when theres a moose around.
Everyone's a photographer when there's a moose around.

For those of you who are following Erik Simula’s 1000 mile Arrowhead Journey, Erik has safely completed most of his trip and blogged about it on the Arrowhead Journey blog.  Lots of pictures, too.  He is finishing the final section between now and August 7th, when he will arrive at the Grand Portage Rendezvous.  

The last leg of the trip will be filmed by Justine Curgenven, of cackletv.  She uses Twitter to update readers on her current projects, so watch for news about Erik.  Quinn is along for this filming project also.  Hmmm, hard choice….paddle for a filmmaker on the Pigeon River for a couple days or  spend the days working at the resort washing boats, hauling garbage and dumping fish guts?   Such a tough choice. @@

A real “Rent-A-Moose”

Bearskins Rent-A-Moose
Bearskin's Rent-A-Moose

Almost everyone who visits the Gunflint Trail shares one goal:   they want to see a moose.  A bear or wolf sighting merits a mention, but a moose sighting makes an exciting story, especially if the moose is relatively close.

I’ve often thought that a small fortune could be made with Rent-A-Moose.    If we could arrange to covertly let a moose loose in front of all resort guests, it would be a great boost for business. Every guest would leave Bearskin with a thrilling moose tale to retell over and over.  Moose stories make people happy.

This year, though, Bearskin has something even better than an on-call rental moose—we have our very own, “guaranteed to be out there when you want it,” local moose cow and calf.

The moose and her newborn originally lived in the bay by the forest service cabin.  They routinely stood in the water near the point, across from the Bearskin cabins—close enough for us to see, but far enough way for everyone (moose and guests) to feel safe.  Canoeists often paddled over to get a closer view of the calf nursing.  Mostly the pair seemed unperturbed by our presence, only occasionally casting an annoyed look at the gawking boaters .

One afternoon about two weeks ago, the little family appeared at the resort.  See https://bearskin.wordpress.com/2009/06/30/a-moose-story-in-pictures-2/    The mama moose and her calf stood in the lupine garden, munching on greenery and modeling for pictures until that grew dull.  Then they headed eastward through the parking lot towards cabins 9, 10 & 11.  They posed for the Gunnink family in cabin 10 for the rest of the afternoon, guests who had waited years to see a moose.  The Gunninks determined that, in reality,  hours and hours of observing a moose eat wasn’t endlessly exciting.

And that is where the story appeared to end.  Except that it didn’t.  Ever since then the moose and her calf have been quietly living around Cabin 11.  Cabin 11 is a bit isolated, so sometimes what happens at cabin 11 stays at cabin 11.  Turns out that the Spolum family, who has been in cabin 11 for two weeks, has been living nonstop in close proximity to the moose.  Sometimes she just walks around the perimeter of the cabin; the family follows her from window to window, to get a closer view.  Once she was lying midway down the path to the lake.  Glenn Spolum said he could smell her well before he saw her. She leaves giant moose droppings along the pathways and makes unexpected crashing noises in the nearby woods. 

Eventually the news about the moose spread and guests started to trek down to that end of the resort in hopes of a moose sighting. The moose briefly charged towards guests who ventured a bit too close with a camera a few days ago.  She may be “our” Rent-A-Moose, but she is a very large, wild, protective animal mother.

Which leads us to this question:  Now what?  The next groups staying in the nearby cabins should be fine this week.  They are experienced Bearskin guests without small children who are up to the challenge of living in close proximity with a mama moose.  For awhile.  But after that, what do we do?  How do you get rid of a moose whose welcome has worn out? And who would have guessed that could ever happen?  “If you give a moose a muffin”…will she go away?  Preferably away where we can watch her and enjoy her, but not worry about her.

Story to be continued, no doubt, whenever we figure out what happens next…

The best photo ever … almost

Nobody spends more time on the Central Gunflint Trail System than our son Quinn.  Between his constant obsessive grooming trips with the pisten bully or G2 and his daily long ski excursions, he often spends 6 – 8 hours a day on the trails. 

After all that time out in the woods you’d think he would have some good animal sighting stories to retell.  But no, most of his interesting animal observations have been made out by our dumpster, not up on the ski trails.  He makes so much noise in the pisten bully or on the grooming snowmobile that all he ever sees are the tracks of animals that used to be on the trail.

Still, Quinn is ever hopeful that someday he’ll come around the corner and there before him will be the astonishing animal scene.  He frequently sticks a camera in his pocket just in case, but all he ever comes back with are photos of snow, the pisten bully or trail scenes.  The only animal he’s photographed all winter was in a cage next to the garbage can, an errant pine marten whose inappropriate  trash feeding habits meant he had the misfortune of being relocated to a dumpster-free environment.  That wasn’t the extraordinary animal picture Quinn envisioned.

One day last week he went out for his typical late afternoon ski trip around the big loop.  As usual he tucked a camera in his vest, expecting to perhaps take a few photos of the straight tracks or nice corduroy he’d set previously.  He was skiing on Ridge Run when he turned a corner and came upon everyone’s dream-come-true animal scene – a big moose standing on the trail in front of him.

It was the ultimate photographic shot.  The moose was positioned perfectly.  All Quinn had to do was reach into his pocket, pull the camera out, turn it on so the zoom lens would quietly extend, focus and then push the button and listen … for the sound of the camera shutting down.  No!  Not just a few feet away from a moose posing for a photo.  He tried again.  Same thing.  The batteries must have gone dead.

Never one to give up easily, Quinn quickly fumbled with the battery compartment in hopes of trying an old McCloughan family trick—warming up the batteries in his hand. Most of our meaningful McCloughan family photos have been taken with dead batteries heated up just enough to fire off one crucial picture.  It was worth a try.

He was standing a short distance away from the moose, desperately attempting to exude body heat into the batteries, when the moose lifted its head and took a step towards him.  It was at that moment when Quinn decided that perhaps what he was doing was really, really dumb. 

He dropped the batteries and camera back into his pocket and sped away, looking over his shoulder just enough to make certain he wasn’t being pursued by a mad moose.  He met up with Bob skiing closer to Bearskin and hoped maybe with a new set of batteries one of them could still get a great moose picture.  Alas, it was not to be.  Bob returned to the same spot, but there was no sign of a moose anymore.  The photo opportunity was lost.

I brought Quinn a big package of fresh new batteries for the camera today.  Next time he goes out to ski he’ll be ready for that moose moment.  Which almost guarantees that it will never happen again.      

Webcam woes



 To all Bearskin’s webcam aficionados: Yes, we know Bearskin Lodge has been frozen in time, at least according to our webcam  As always, it was our luck that the endless photo turned out to be very boring. Occasionally a view appears on our webcam that would be entertaining to maintain for awhile.  But this one — not so much.   


It appears that at 7:33:03 AM on March 13th our satellite internet stopped working, forever freezing a dreary picture of East Bearskin Lake under an overcast sky onto our web page. Days of experimentation with the equipment, then endless phone calls and voice mails to the array of companies who now seem to manage our internet service resulted in a repair order finally being written…for someday.  Possibly even someday soon.  Welcome to the North Country.


 So for those of you who like to get your breakfast East Bearskin Lake webcam fix along with your Cheerios and coffee:  a pleasant surprise will await you one of these mornings; with luck, perhaps even on a morning in the forseeable future.   An all-new picture of precisely the same spot will have appeared.  That will be your sign that, ta-da! — the repair guy actually showed up.  New blogs will be published, new specials will be posted on the website, new Flickr pictures will show up online (you missed the entire pine marten relocation project!) but best of all — the webcam will snap a photo again.  And Bearskin will once again be functioning with 21st century technology, at least until the next (fill in the blank) cloudy/snowy/ rainy/ windy day.  





Moose on Bear Cub

Everybody loves to see a moose.  The most well-read blog entry we’ve ever published continues to be Moose – vs – Andy McDonnell  (https://bearskin.wordpress.com/2007/10/28/moose-vs-andy-mcdonnell/)   For some reason, people are very taken with Andy’s story.  Numerous guests have told us that they would greatly enjoy being chased by that same bull moose.  It is undoubtedly more fun to retell a story about a charging moose than to actually live the story. 

Skiers at Bearskin come back from the trails enthused about finding moose tracks (very, very common) and absolutely overjoyed when they actually spot a moose (not so common.)  This moose in the above picture was sighted yesterday on Bear Cub Trail by guest Jim Zyskowski while he was out skiing.      

More moose-sighting pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bearskinlodge/ 

So anyone who appreciates seeing moose will find this StarTribune article, The Case of the Missing Moose, to be informative.  http://www.startribune.com/local/15895882.html   Thirty-four moose were tagged and radio-collared last week as part of a project to examine whether brainworm is affecting moose in the area.  The close-up pictures in the slide show of vets taking the blood samples from an 850 pound cow moose and then placing a radio collar on her are especially remarkable. Very few of us will ever get that close to a giant moose head. 

Now we’ll not only want to see a moose out on the trail, but it will also be intriguing to see if we ever spot one that is part of this study.