Oh Deer

At Tuscarora, we have deer and we have snow, and the other day the local wolf pack had a meal. Sometime between 6am and 12pm, this deer was killed and picked fairly clean.

One Sunday in January, the sheriff sent out an email warning the folks in town of a wolf pack on County Road 7—they attacked one dog, and just missed another.
Apparently the lack of snow along the North Shore gives the deer an advantage over the wolves, and as a result the wolves are hungry (and plentiful) enough to start looking for fresh meat elsewhere.
Last week Andy watched three wolves on the lake—one acting as a sentry while two of them rolled like puppies.
Perhaps you have read in the newspapers lately—the wolves have had more press recently, since they were taken off the endangered species list in Wisconsin and Michigan (they have been listed as threatened in Minnesota since 1978) According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press (January 30th)
Minnesota has an estimated 3,020 wolves, Wisconsin 460, upper Michigan 430 and Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior 30 — all above federal population recovery levels…..the article goes on to say….In anticipation of eventually getting management authority over wolves, Minnesota finalized a wolf-management plan six years ago. Among other things, it will break the state into two zones — the wooded northeast, where wolves are abundant, and the rest of the state, where they are less common. In the northeast, property owners could kill wolves if they observed them stalking, attacking or killing livestock or pets. In the remainder of the state, property owners will have more discretion and could kill wolves if they considered them a threat to their animals.
Under the Minnesota plan, there will be no public hunting or trapping for five years. Then, the DNR commissioner could propose a season, but only after an opportunity for public debate. The state’s minimum population goal is 1,600 wolves. Limited trapping of wolves responsible for attacks on livestock and pets would continue. About 100 to 150 of those wolves are trapped each year, DonCarlos said. Unless lawsuits are filed, the management transfer will take place 30 days after the decision is published in the Federal Register. Next month, another iconic creature, the bald eagle, is expected to be removed from the list of endangered species. Even though gray wolf populations are increasing in Minnesota, there are no documented cases of wolves attacking or injuring anyone in the state, according to the DNR. “Any wild animal can never be considered completely safe,” said Walter Medwid, executive director of the International Wolf Center, based in Ely, Minn. “But Minnesota is perhaps the best example that people have lived with wolves in remarkable harmony overall for the last 30-odd years.”

The Spark

One of our favorite modes of winter transportation/entertainment on the snowpacked roads of Tuscaroroa, or the lake is through the use of our Sparks.

Spark” is short for “Sparkstötting” (Swedish/Norwegian). In Finnish it is called “Potkukelkka”, meaning kick-sled.
The exact early history of the spark is lost in the mists of time, but the first confirmed sighting was in Sweden around 1870. Perhaps a Viking runestone will be found with a drawing of an early spark! My guess is that some inventive Swedish farmer nailed a chair to a pair of skis, and used it for hauling firewood. etc. “Spark” means “kick” and “Stöt” means “push”. The word “stötting” or “stutting” was also used for small sleds used for hauling wood.
Sparks were used for transportation and then for sport as it spread to larger cities. In 1888 Stockholms Sparkstöttingklubb was founded. The club leader was Viktor Balck, who later became one of the founders of the Olympic Games.
By the 1890’s sparks had spread to Norway and Finland. In 1900 the modern steel runnered spark was developed, and the design remained unchanged until now.
There were major competitions in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Spark racing was one of the 3 major events (besides skiing and skating) in the Nordic Games (Nordiska Spelen), which was the ancestor of the Winter Olympics. However, after 1910 or so, sparks were mainly used as a utility vehicle. Today they are still used in smaller towns.
(information taken from http://www.dermott.ca/ski/spark.html)

This month, our sparks are even more valuable. Notice Shelby’s large green sock-covering a cast? She broke her leg while sliding, and has discovered the spark as a welcome substitute for her crutches around here!

Interested in building your own kicksled? Check out Northouse Folk School: http://www.northhousefolkschool.com/classes/OutdoorSkill.htm


A pack of wolves share our territory-we see their scat around the lodge—we hear them howl. We get a kick out of listening to the pups as they try to match pitch with the older ones. Along our road, we’ve noticed a favorite place for the hunt.
Notice the high banks on either side of the river. Each winter, Denali has found more than one kill in this spot—last month was the latest. We can see where the deer unsuccessfully scramble up the bank.
This time of year we’re glad that the deer are abundant lest the wolves get a taste for black lab.

Robert Service

In this darkest time of the year, Robert Service has brightened up our lives. Shelby took out a Robert Service poetry book from the library. Both kids have figured that he knew what it was like to live at Tuscarora:

Listen to this Mom” ( snippets from The Spell of the Yukon)

The summer — no sweeter was ever;
The sunshiny woods all athrill…….

And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop;
And I’ve thought that I surely was dreaming,
With the peace o’ the world piled on top…….

The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,
I’d bade ’em good-by — but I can’t……..

“Doesn’t it sound just like he’s been here?”

It’s the great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder,
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,

It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

So when the Cook County Herald was having a poetry contest, Shelby wrote a Robert Service-style poem on the bus.

The Moose
By Shelby Ahrendt
Age 11
193 Round Lake Road
Grand Marais, MN 55604

On a November Day we were making our way
Down the Gunflint Trail
The bus was cold, the silence was old
And the air was awfully stale.
Then the scene changed when something strange
Charged out of the underbrush,
It was dark as night and it gave me a fright
As it broke the silence and hush.

“A moose” said Chet and the brake his foot met
And we can screeching to a halt,
The moose looked at us and with all its must
It turned and began its assault.
At us it ran, horns out in a fan
And someone began to cry,
Then it swerved away, which saved the day
For we all thought we would die.

On that November Day we continued our way
Down the Gunflint Trail,
More fuel was burned, the silence returned
And the air was still awfully stale.
The bus rumbled on and we welcomed the dawn
Like any other day.
Just another moose, out on the loose
On the bus ride to Grand Marais.