Saturday, September 19, 2020

Here's to the fungus among us


Amanita muscaria

The Amanita muscaria are enormous this year. I have seen many the size of dinner plates. Too bad they are poisonous because each one would make a meal. They certainly are beautiful.

There are some really interesting facts and stories about this mushroom that I went over in one of my old blog postings.

A fall mushroom that I never noticed until this year is the Upright Coral Fungus or Ramaria stricta. Isn't nature wonderful?

Upright Coral Fungus

Friday, September 18, 2020

Not just the times that are changing

 "Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air

And feather canyons everywhere, I've looked at clouds that way"

Joni Mitchell


All my life I have studied the clouds at Red Lake. Not just because they can be beautiful, awesome or menacing but because they tell the future. They are the weather forecast. As I plied the waters between town and camp, I knew what was coming: glassy calm or a roaring tempest, gentle rain or a deluge.

There was something strange about the clouds at Red Lake last summer. They didn't behave the same. For instance, weather systems have always moved from west to east. Not this year. In fact, one day there were small storms moving simultaneously in all directions. I went out fishing right after a storm had passed, moving west to east as normal, and looking north, saw another storm over Pipestone Bay, heading south. The whole storm was also rotating and had a shelf cloud in a circle that spread for miles. I went back to the cabin and watched from the dock but the storm missed us entirely, moving over Trout Bay. To the east I could see another thunderhead and realized it was headed north.

The next day I met Brian who had seen it all too. He called them mini-cyclones and said they are common in Kansas. What are they doing up here?

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Reflecting on what was missing

Scene off our dock this summer

In the 56 years that the Baughmans owned and operated Bow Narrows Camps it was our good fortune to have seen nearly 20,000 guests, almost all from the United States. By comparison the Municipality of Red Lake has only 4,000 residents.

Many, many of those guests came year after year, generation after generation. Some came more than once a year. I would like to say something here on their behalf.

These people love Red Lake. They love Bow Narrows Camp. They love Northwestern Ontario and they love Canada. Their annual trips were far more than just about catching fish. They were a sanctuary from the stress and madness of modern life, a way to cope, a balm for the soul.

The ability to boat alongside loons, to see moose and other wildlife, stand in awe at night under the Milky Way, meant everything to them. 

We know how sad they were that they couldn't come this summer. We were sad too. We missed those handshakes and hugs, the jokes, the catching-up on life stories. We love you all.

We just need to stay safe. Stay smart. Beat the virus. And get back up here!

When we were at the cabin this summer we heard the Grand Old Opry one Saturday starring Molly Tuttle and Old Crow Medicine Show. Here's a link to a YouTube video with them that was not part of that night but I think you will find it particularly relevant to the posting above.

Friday, September 11, 2020

This wildlife program highly successful

 One wildlife management plan that has been very successful for me here at our home in Nolalu has been the placing of nesting boxes for Eastern Bluebirds. In the 35 years that I have placed out boxes there have been at least one pair of nesting birds each year. This year I believe we had two nesting boxes occupied at the same time and at least one of those females also had two clutches. An unusual twist to the nesters this summer was that while there were two females, there seemed to be only one male.

I place out pairs of nesting boxes, about 15 yards apart. This system allows tree swallows to claim one of the boxes. They are normally the more aggressive species and nest earlier than the bluebirds. They are also territorial and will defend their nesting area against other tree swallows. This leaves the second box open for the docile bluebirds. 

Both species are wonderful birds to have around your house. The swallows gulp down large quantities of flying insects while the bluebirds concentrate on crawling bugs. Bluebirds hunt by sitting on a perch and watching for bugs and caterpillars on the ground. They prefer to hunt over bare ground such as you would find in a garden although they will also settle for the short grass in a lawn. Our bluebirds also do well in fields where the vegetation isn't more than about six inches.

Bluebirds are fairly common in many areas of eastern North America now thanks to nesting box programs. As recently as the '80s they were considered a threatened species. European starlings and house finches (another import) had pushed the little birds out of their nesting cavities. The nesting boxes are designed to fit the bluebird but not the starling. If placed in open areas away from buildings they will also not attract the house finch. 

When it comes to attracting bluebirds three things are paramount: location, location, location. The birds want the box to be far away from forest or buildings. The more exposed the location, the better. The birds know exactly what the boxes are meant for. The farther away they can spot a box, the more likely that box will be found. They do have a couple other preferences, such as a bush or small tree 10 yards in front of the box for the young to fly to as well as perches not too far away to hunt from. However, you can decoy-in bluebirds to your property simply by putting a house right in the middle of an expanse, then let them find your pairs of boxes in other areas that provide the other requirements.

We still have the last nest of fledgling bluebirds hunting bugs at our house. This despite three nights of frost. I would expect them to migrate any day now.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Red Lake 2020 summer nature notes


These enormous caterpillars kept falling out of the birch trees at our cabin this summer. They were as long as my little finger and maybe 5/8 inch in diameter. I think they weighed about an ounce.

They were so large that they made a "thunk" when they hit the ground. What are they? A couple of guesses are the larva of the Polyphemus Moth and maybe even the Luna Moth.

Our cabin sits on a micro eco site. It is a shelf of sand and glacial till that extends just 150 feet along a hillside of clay. Paper birch love sandy, gravelly sites so that is why there are so many at our place.

Other creatures we saw this summer were a pine marten, least chipmunk, red squirrel, garter snake, leopard frog, American toad. We also had a Swainson's thrush that was nearly tame, a real oddity for a bird that is so elusive you can go your whole life only hearing their beautiful morning and evening serenades and never seeing the bird that makes them.

Bald eagles, with no fish guts to eat from the camp anglers, had to fend for themselves. A favourite fishing spot for them was the corner between our dock and the big hill. 

The usual pair of nesting loons was out front, without any chicks. They were out in the middle of the bay one evening when I took my guitar down to the dock. As soon as I started to play they swam directly to me, finally stopping about 15 yards away. They seemed to like the guitar and stayed around for nearly half an hour. 

We saw no moose or bears. We are meticulous about keeping our garbage inside and took the little we had to town each week. That became a problem during the evacuation and the ban on travel in Red Lake. The garbage bag was smelling and had to leave the cabin. Our best solution was to put it in the bow of the boat, covered with a tarp to keep ravens away. Fortunately, nothing found it until we could get to town.

Not sure if you heard this terrible news but a Red Lake man was killed by a black bear this summer. He was picking blueberries by himself south of town. He was a bush-wise guy who would have known all about dealing with bears. 

Friday, September 4, 2020

And of course, how was the fishing?

Matt with pike and walleye

Brenda and I were desperate to eat fresh fish when we got to the cabin in early July. There just isn't any substitute for fish caught fresh out of the lake. I had prepared for the season by purchasing a special rod to fish from the dock. A year ago I found that whenever I could make an extraordinary long cast from the dock with something like a Beetlespin, I caught a walleye; however, my 5'6" spinning rod and reel just wasn't the right rig. So this year I came prepared with a 7' Zebco Crappie rod fitted out with a tiny triggerspin reel. I figured that would let me toss a 1/8 ounce jig or Beetlespin the 100 feet needed to get into the walleye zone. On my first fishing attempt I caught about a 24-inch northern pike.

 I will let you in on a secret. Brenda and I and all of our family and even all of the staff that ever worked at Bow Narrows Camp prefer northern pike to walleye. That's not a misprint. We like pike -- jackfish in Red Lake parlance -- better than the highly coveted walleye or pickerel as they are called in the Thunder Bay area to all points east. That 24-inch fish was the perfect pike for us. I quickly filleted it, removing 100 per cent of the bones, and we were soon devouring golden brown fillets along with pan-fried potatoes and pork and beans -- a real shore lunch! Man, oh man, that was tasty!

 For the next week or so I kept us in fish simply by fishing for an hour or so off the dock in the evenings. The new rod worked perfectly and I could hook four or five walleye on each outing. Many of these were too big. We prescribe to the camp rule of letting all walleye 18 inches or longer go since these are spawning size. Anytime we needed fish I kept a couple 14-17 inchers. After a couple of weeks, Brenda gave me an ultimatum. "No more walleye! Let's go get some pike." So we journeyed out in the boat anytime we wanted fish after that. We were looking for pike, of course, and at first couldn't find any. All of our shallow, weedy bays seemed devoid of fish. My first clue was when large schools of perch followed in the lure. These little fish acted like there weren't any predators around. We changed tactics and went out into the big water. There they were!

 When our son Matt joined us in August we all went fishing in the big bays using our center-console Eastern boat. The very first fish Brenda hooked must have been 38-40 inches and it immediately sailed three feet out of the water like a tarpon. She fought it for 10 minutes or so before the fish changed directions and seemed to get the line into its mouth, cutting it like a knife. We caught walleye on all of our pike fishing trips, many of them too large to keep. Walleye have just exploded in Red Lake. They are everywhere and can be caught using just about any method.


 Over at the camp Brian spent many of his evenings following and studying walleye schools with his fishfinder. He was flabbergasted at how these schools seemed to defy the generally held belief that walleye don't suspend. Time after time he caught these fish that might be 20 feet off the bottom by trolling crankbaits. I'm sure he will elaborate how he did it on the camp blog this winter. 

On a sad note, almost none of the loons this year successfully raised chicks. Lee Austen pointed that out to us, blaming high water that came after these magnificent birds had built their nests. 

 "The loons are all in mourning," said Lee. "They are all silent."

 He was right. To my astonishment we went for weeks before hearing anything from the loons even though there were the usual pairs in all the usual spots, including right in front of our cabin. As time went on their spirits came back and eventually the lake started reverberating with the calls of the wild. We also eventually saw a couple of loon pairs with chicks, all out in the middle of the biggest bays. 

With the international border closed to American visitors, there were no American anglers on the lake. The only Americans allowed into the country were people like Brian and the Slaviches over at Black Bear who are owners of tourist camps. They had to go directly to their camps and quarantine for 14 days. They were allowed in so they could maintain their businesses. 

We sure missed seeing our friends who would normally be fishing at Bow Narrows. And we also missed our friends who own cottages on the lake. Lots of these people had never missed a year at camp or their cabin since the 1960s.

 There was a surprising amount of boat traffic on the lake,  however. Red Lake residents spent more time than usual fishing the lake and just touring around. I think many of these used their vacation time this summer figuring there won't be any destinations available next winter. Red Lake Marine reports their busiest summer ever!

 What will it take to open the border again? It's going to take the U.S. lowering its positivity rate. The rate in Canada is less than 1 per cent. We got there by shutting things down for many months, social distancing and wearing masks. Most things are open here again and masks are mandatory in public places. Nobody wants to go back to the way things were. A vaccine would do it too but that is not likely before next summer.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Summer of 2020 one for history books

Looking east toward town at thunderhead of smoke.

 We got back a week ago from about six weeks at our little cabin at Red Lake, exhausted from a whirlwind of building and forest fires.

Where do I start? The fire that caused the second evacuation of Red Lake in its history, I guess.

We were on our way to Black Bear Lodge for dinner Monday, Aug. 10, when we saw a massive thunderhead of smoke coming up from the east. There had been a vicious west wind all day, so windy, in fact that we delayed boating over to the camp of Jim and Jillian Slavich and considered cancelling altogether. Then the wind dropped a little and we took off in our Eastern 20-foot boat which is made for the ocean. The boat held Brenda, our son Matt, our dog, Cork, and me.

From the location I guessed the fire was near Madsen which is a few miles west of Red Lake. The smoke plume rolling many thousands of feet in the air told the story: this fire was flying at frightening speed eastward toward the communities.

There wasn't anything we could do about it, however, so Jim and Jillian went ahead and served us delicious smoked ribs and corn on the cob. As we were finishing an electrician from Madsen mine drove into camp. He had been cut off by the fire and fled up Suffel Lake Road to the camp while he waited for someone to come by boat from town to pick him up. The Slaviches sat him down to the table.

The wind had dropped substantially by the time we left a couple of hours later.

First thing the next morning Brian Spillar from Bow Narrows came with the news that Red Lake had been evacuated. We listened to our satellite radio for news each day. Next summer I'm taking the AM/FM radio as well because there was only a mention on the CBC satellite program.

No sooner had Brian gone back to work at the camp where he is finishing a new cabin when Lee Austen boated up to the dock.

"Are you going to be alright for food?" he asked. Lee and his wife, Kim, were at their cabin which is just upstream of Bow Narrows on the same side of the narrows. What thoughtful people!

Everything in Red Lake was closed, Lee explained, but they had lots of food at their home in town and would drive in and get some if we needed it. We thanked him and told him we were OK for a few days at least.

Then we heard that all travel was banned in Red Lake. 

I journeyed to a rocky point each day over by Muskrat Bay where I could sometimes get a cell signal.

One day there was a message from Jim Slavich informing that they had evacuated to Ear Falls. I answered his text when my phone buzzed. It was Jim. He wanted to know if we could go over to their camp and check their freezers. If things were OK, could we start the generator and let it run all day to cool everything down. And help ourselves to any food, he added. Hallelujah!

Lee then answered another prayer by giving us 5 gallons of gas so we could run our generator and use power tools. And Brian gave us purified drinking water! My goodness but we are blessed with such good friends.

Matt was stranded in Red Lake for nearly a week before the road reopened and he could head home again.

In the meantime we finished installing steel siding on the cabin. In fact, the little 12 x 24 cabin is completely finished, inside and out. Next year we can just open the door and start work on the main cabin which we've downsized since the little cabin morphed into what will become two bedrooms.

The fire that caused the evacuation wasn't the first we had experienced. Just two days earlier, we heard a helicopter circling just to the west. Brenda came running up from the dock to say there was lots of smoke just north of the camp.

Fearing that Kim and Lee's place might be blazing, Matt and I jumped in our little fishing boat and raced to help. We soon saw that the fire was at the end of Middle Bay and realized it was a new cabin that was under construction. There already was a fire crew and a helicopter on scene when we got there and another helicopter was coming in.

We pulled up tight to the marsh at Dean Creek so we would be out of the way when the second helicopter landed right on the floating muskeg of the marsh a couple of hundred yards away. It eventually took off trailing a large bucket but something was wrong and it landed again and flew away without it. Meanwhile several boats took a fire crew which had exited the chopper over to the fire.

Just then two water bombers showed up and we beat it figuring everything was well in hand.

The two-storey, 3,500 square foot cabin was totally destroyed. It had been under construction for two years by builders from Red Lake. The fire started on a Saturday when no one was there. It was very windy and the fire hazard was high. 

When we got back to our place I got my fire pump out of the shed and hooked it up on the dock, ready to go at a moment's notice if needed. I noticed Lee had done the same.

The MNRF aerial and ground attack extinguished the Middle Bay blaze in just a couple of hours but one crew stayed behind to keep watch. Just before dark they spotted another fire. This was a jump fire from the sparks of the first. It was burning on the Pipestone Narrows peninsula. This was put out quickly and a good thing too because it could have threatened the three cabins in Sadler Bay narrows and eventually others, including us.

More about the summer in the next posting...

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A Yankee in the Canadian Bush -- Roots

Housekeeper and kitchen helper Jessie Keesic and my mom, Del
Chapter 9

That couple of months living at McDougall’s were hard times for sure but nothing my mom couldn’t handle. Born in 1918 in The Plains, Ohio, Adelpha Maxine Adams had seen plenty of lean times. She was the oldest of seven children and grew up on a subsistence farm which was, of course, common for rural folk in the 1920s and ‘30s.
Her dad, Archie Plummer Adams, was also born in The Plains. His father had worked in a local coal mine and was killed in a mine accident. He had been a union organizer and there was suspicion that he was always given the riskiest work by the company. He left behind a large family and so when he was killed his oldest son, Archie -- but known to me as Poppy -- had to quit school and take his place. He was just 12 years old.
Child labor was not uncommon. The coal companies actually preferred children as workers because they were small and the coal seams they were mining were often only four feet high. Adult miners had to work on their knees.
Coal mining in the Hocking Valley Coal Field was in its heyday in the late 1800s. Coal had been discovered there in 1748 and by the beginning of the 20th century coal from the Athens, Perry and Hocking counties supplied 40 per cent of Ohio’s needs.
Poppy’s responsibility was to go underground, blast the coal loose using dynamite, then shovel it into a cart which was pulled by a tiny pony to the surface. To keep the mine shafts from collapsing the miners left pillars of unmined coal until they reached the end of the seam, then they backed out taking down each pillar. The company would not allow any coal to be wasted. The same couldn’t be said about the miners.
For two years Poppy worked in the mine, turning over all of his pay to his mother, just as she instructed but all the while the wheels were turning in his head. There was no future in being a coal miner. If you weren’t killed in a cave-in, explosion or fire, then you died from black-lung disease. The meager pay you earned went right back to the coal company for rent and for food from the company store.
One day Poppy disobeyed his mom and bought a mule and wagon from the local doctor. He rigged the wagon with a seat on each side and used it as a taxi to ferry miners from the townsite to the mine and back each day. He never worked a day underground again.
Poppy and his delivery truck
He also used the mule and wagon to sell extra vegetables, eggs and milk, door to door. Years later he would do the same thing in Willoughby using a truck. One winter when we were visiting from Red Lake I got to be his helper. We would go to farm auctions where Poppy bought eggs, bread and vegetables from the Amish. Then we drove around the communities of Willoughby, Eastlake and Mentor where I would run to the doors of Poppy’s customers and deliver their orders. Poppy paid me each day in silver dollars.
When they were still living at The Plains, Poppy’s older brother, Sam, got a job at an estate up on Lake Erie and sent for Poppy and his wife, Opal Marie Ponn. The Town of Willoughby needed a roads supervisor and in particular, it needed someone who knew how to use dynamite. For the next 30 springs Poppy would walk out on the ice jams at the mouth of the Chagrin River Harbor, placing sticks of dynamite in the crevasses between the shifting ice chunks. The first sticks had long fuses. The last had short ones. The far side of the river would be exploding sky high as Poppy came to shore on the near side.
Tragically, not far from the river's mouth in the early 1960s, Poppy's brother Sam drowned while working as a commercial fisherman in a rowboat.
My mom, Del, graduated high school in Willoughby. She was the first person in her family to do so. In the 1930s, during the depths of the Great Depression, she was offered a scholarship to study business at Ohio University at Athens. However, she then met my dad and her business became raising a family. She asked Poppy one time where she got the name Adelpha. From a mule, he said.
The Adams family had been in North America and especially the Ohio Valley area for a long time. Poppy’s great grandfather’s brother was a founding father of the U.S. – John Adams, who became the second president. Then his son, John Quincy Adams, became the sixth.
Poppy and Granny Opal raised their seven children in Willoughby on a rented farm which produced food for the family while Poppy worked as roads supervisor. They had their own milk cow and would raise a couple of hogs each year to turn into bacon and hams which after smoking hung from the ceiling in the screened-in porch.
Reeves historic home, Willoughby, Ohio
After Granny Opal died, Poppy bought a small parcel of land across the road from the Reeves Farm nearer the lake. The old farm had been bought by my uncle, Ervie Kitzel, who was my dad’s best friend and also his brother-in-law. Ervie had married my mother’s sister, Ruth.
The farm once bordered a large swath of the Lake Erie shoreline when it was one of the estates in the Connecticut Land Reserve. This was land given to Connecticut land owners who fought in the Revolutionary War and lost their homes to the British.
When Uncle Ervie purchased the farm in the late 1950s, it had already mostly been carved up for housing developments as part of the Cleveland suburban sprawl. Ervie’s piece was still large by standards at the time and might have measured 30 acres.
The farmhouse was majestic compared to the boxes in the housing developments. It had a stone basement, 10-foot-high ceilings and most interestingly, its own natural gas well.
An enormous gas-light chandelier hung in the living room. Aunt Ruth despised it. She was a clean freak and found dusting the hundreds of crystal prisms dangling around the gas lights too much. Also electricity, not gas, was how the home had been illuminated for decades. So, while we were staying in the house the winter after we left McDougall’s, Dad and Ervie took down the chandelier. Dad separated all of the gas lights and packed them in a box to be taken to camp. After being dark for most of a century, the gas lights from a Revolutionary War soldier's home would blaze again at Bow Narrows Camp on Red Lake in Northwestern Ontario. be continued

Saturday, May 16, 2020

A Yankee in the Canadian Bush -- Wolverine

Me, age 8, with wolverine

Dad with wolverine that was mounted life-size in L&F office
Chapter 8 

The spring of 1961 changed us forever. So many incredible things happened to us at the camp as the ice was breaking up that none of us could ever go back to our former lives.
Bill arrived in the middle of the second day and apologized for locking all the cabins. The ice had gotten so bad, he just figured we weren’t coming until after breakup.
During the next couple of weeks, Bill and Dad prepared the wooden boats for launching and also, when the ice had melted sufficiently, took a boat down the shoreline about a mile to where Bill wanted to build his new cabin. The two men worked felling trees, clearing brush and placing wooden posts to be used as a foundation.
Meanwhile, Mom and I were thrilled by the ice-out process.
One day the ice just seemed to magically start coming onto land. Almost imperceptibly it moved up and over the rocks, shattering into icicles as it did so. The whole shoreline tinkled with the sound of a million icicles falling together. We would learn it was the wind farther out on the lake that was bringing the ice sheet to shore.
The first place to have “opened up” was just north of the camp where the narrows makes a sharp turn. The current as it goes around the bend prevents the ice from freezing deeply in the winter and in the spring makes a pool of open water that grows in size daily.
I wandered out onto a rocky point by the pool one day and was just standing there when I suddenly hit the deck. It was an instinctive response to something I had heard many times on the Pickerel River – a military jet screaming at hundreds of miles per hour just above the tree tops. The jets, coming from an air base not far from the Pickerel and practising low-level flying, would give little warning. There would just be a hint of a roar, followed by a whoosh, then ear-splitting thunder.
So, at the first bit of roar and whoosh, I fell to the rocks and covered my ears. The thunder never came. Instead, when I looked up, there floating in the water in front of me was a little brown duck with a  brilliant gold eye. Just then, another duck arrived. It came flying in so fast I thought it would go right over the pool but it abruptly tilted its wings backwards and to my astonishment made the loud roar and whooshing sound. It had just been air vibrating through the duck’s feathers! This duck was mostly white but had a blue-green head with a white spot. These ducks were Goldeneyes.
My eight-year-old Buckeye ears were fooled another time as well. I kept hearing a pack of dogs barking off in the distance. They sounded like hounds, I thought, and didn’t think much of it until it finally dawned on me that there weren’t houses with dogs here like in Ohio.
The dogs always sounded so far away. I looked down the shoreline in each direction. Nothing. Then I looked at the big hill across the narrows. No dogs there either but as I followed the hill to the top – and then above – I spotted them, in a V. Geese! They were flying thousands of feet off the ground, just specks against the blue sky. Although decades later geese would be common everywhere, in 1961 they were an oddity and I had never seen them before.
The lack of bird life all over North America was explained  the following year, 1962, by a biologist  named Rachel Carson. She wrote a book called Silent Spring about how pesticides were killing all of the birds, insects and even wild plants. It would be a decade before I heard of her work.
If the ice, ducks and geese weren’t interesting enough, one day I walked down to the point in front of Bill’s cabin, peered into the clear water and couldn’t believe my eyes. There were northern pike, by the thousands, swimming nose to tail, just a few feet off shore. Mostly they were single file but occasionally there were twos or threes. They were moving steadily to the north. Every hour another thousand would pass by the point. The spectacle lasted for days.
Of course, Mom and I quickly got our fishing rods and tried to get the pike to strike on spoons and spinners. None would.
We asked Bill for an explanation.
“They are all headed to Dean Creek to spawn. You can see them in there with their backs right out of the water. There are thousands and thousands of them.”
Dean Creek was about a mile away to the Northwest. The pike were apparently coming from Trout Bay, more than a mile away to the South. It was a fish mass migration. After a pause of about a week the whole spectacle happened in reverse but this time the fish were more spread out. They still would not bite.
Meanwhile we made another discovery -- there were nightcrawlers in the yard. We caught a bunch, put them in a can, and. Mom, who was an alpha angler if there ever was one, immediately rigged her fishing rod with a hook, sinker and bobber. No sooner would the red-and-white plastic bobber hit the water than it would be pulled under by a fish.
Her first many catches were whitefish, a species new to us. They were good to eat, said Bill, so we had a few suppers of them.
Then Mom got a lake trout which surprised Bill as he did not believe they could be taken on a worm.
“Now you have the best-eating fish in the lake,” he said. “Let me bake it and you will see for yourself.”
Bill baked it in the oven of his wood-burning cookstove. We marveled at its taste but privately Mom, Dad and I decided we really preferred northern pike, a fish that Bill absolutely abhorred.
“I call them hyenas,” he said. “If muskies are the wolves of the water, then I figure northerns are the hyenas. HaHaHa.”
Eventually the narrows was totally clear of ice and Dad and Bill took off in Bill’s 14-foot aluminum boat for the town of Red Lake, expecting to be gone all day. Instead they were back in just 30 minutes.
Incredibly, while dodging ice packs in Wolf Narrows they had struck and killed a wolverine.
Dad had thought they were extinct in Northern Ontario, and he wasn’t far wrong. This was the last one, at least for the next 30 years.
Bill, who had been trapping at Red Lake nearly his entire life, had never seen one before. Since wolverines were a protected species he wanted to just leave it right there in the lake for fear the authorities would believe he trapped it. Dad, however, thought it a shame to leave the animal to waste. It was a very large male wolverine and probably weighed 40 pounds.
He talked Bill into letting him take it to the Department of Lands and Forests. Maybe he could get a permit to have it made into a rug, he thought.
They came back to camp because the lake was still blocked with ice beyond Wolf Narrows. Bill calculated that with the strong south wind that was building, the lake would be clear the next day.
We took photos of the wolverine and put it on ice. Sure enough, the next day, the lake was open enough for Dad and Bill to boat to town and for Dad to take the wolverine into the Department of Lands and Forests office at Red Lake.
“Absolutely not!” long-time conservation officer Bert Colebourn told Dad when he asked if he could get a permit to send the animal to a taxidermist in Winnipeg.
“This wolverine isn’t going anywhere,” said the warden.
Instead the Red Lake District L&F had the creature made into a life-size mount which has been displayed in a glass case at the office ever since. That was a far better way of honoring the old wolverine, Dad agreed. be continued

Here's to the fungus among us

  Amanita muscaria The Amanita muscaria are enormous this year. I have seen many the size of dinner plates. Too bad they are poisonous beca...