A Winter First

Be warned, some of you may find what follows a little gross.  My friends do…


As I was out checking on the cabins this morning I noticed a lot of little hoof prints all over.  On the decks, right next to the cabin doors, up and down the drives, off into the woods, and over across the lake.  I kept following all the tracks around in their odd little patterns trying to figure out what the deer were doing here.  I feared for our little sapling Jack pines, Stan and Marge, but seemed to be ok nestled in the snow.

Usually Tuscarora does not have any deer visitors in the winter.  It’s tough living up here in the deep snow with out a lot of browse.  Most deer migrate down to Lake Superior and hang out on the shore or go further south where the snow does not get so deep.  Some heards tough it out all winter when a resort feeds them, but they usually don’t stray very far from the feeders.

I decided to grab the mail and walk with Lucy out to the mail box.  It was a nice enough day and she was going a little stir crazy after all the cold weather we had been having.  Plus I had a mystery to solve.  Heading down the road my head was down watching all the tracks.  We even picked up the tracks of a little moose on the road.  There were a lot!  Going every which way.  What went on last night?

Not paying attention as I was, I didn’t notice the little red car coming up the road towards us.  I hollered for Lucy and the car slowed down and rolled down their window.  With an excited grin I was informed their was carrion up ahead!  I thanked them for the heads up and clicked Lucy onto a leash.  I didn’t need a pup with an upset stomach at 2 AM.

I assumed they had meant it would be on the Cross River just up head but nothing.  Lucy and I kept following the tracks in the snow still wondering.  Lucy is not one for leashed walks and I was more concerned about being pulled over into the snow than the tracks for a while.  Then we turned the corner by the Centennial Hiking Trail and there it was.

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My enthusiasm for what follows might be a bit…odd…but this was my first wolf kill.  I had been waiting for this for a while now.  From a distance it was just a big splattering of red in a black and white world.  Now the tracks were all a mess of creatures – deer, wolf, fox, martin, raven, scrub jay, people.  We got closer, Lucy tugging on the leash, me trying to keep her out of the worst.  The deer must have been there for at least a day as not much was left.  Tufts of fur were scattered every where.  The carcass was just a skull, spine and some ribs.  I could see where umm…”bits”…had been carried off to be umm…”enjoyed”…in peace.

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And the wing marks!  The ravens had been startled off by the car passing through but on the snow banks were these beautiful feather impressions from their take offs.  There must have been a whole flock here cleaning up the…ah…”leftovers.”

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It was hard to really take a good look at everything with Lucy choking herself on the leash so we went home.  I was going to go back out and take a closer look but when we got back, the county snow plow was rumbling up the drive.  Shoot.  It will be all swept into the snow bank now.  I wanted to see how the rest of it was going to go as all the little forest scavengers had their turn.

My friends tell me this is gross.  And sad.  But a wolf needs to eat, right?  And when the wolf is done, just think of all the other creatures that benefit.  Sure the deer is dead but winter is really a struggle for them anyways.  It’s not cruel or sinister.  It’s just a part of the natural order.

Check out our Winter Report for shorter and fluffier winter condition updates!

7 Responses

  1. Mark J. Kukulka says:

    That is a very interesting story. I kind of figured there were wolves in the area when you said that you usually don’t see deer tracks around the Lodge and cabins. It has been a long time since I have seen a kill sight. It doesn’t take a pack of wolves long to destroy the evidence. Thank you for sharing both the story and the pictures.

  2. Jeff Harrison says:

    Well-stated, Rachel. Your sentence “says it all”: It’s just a part of the natural order.

  3. Jess Allen says:

    Hey I love it! Everyone needs a meal! And not a smidge wasted!

  4. Jerry says:

    It’s not odd or gross. Like you said it is part of nature doing what it does. I share your excitement at witnessing it all and seeing more than just a dead dear. Those raven wing impressions in the snow are a work of art. Thanks for posting this.

  5. Mary says:

    I am totally on the side of “this is fascinating”. Loved the idea of all those creatures sneaking in and out of the area to take their bits. I spent a long time on the close-up picture of what was left of the deer. Not gross at all–just an insight to nature that we rarely get to see. That whole spine, picked clean! Amazing. And raven wings in snow–wow, like a brush of heaven.

  6. Joni says:

    Wonderful account! Thank you.

  7. Rachel says:

    Thanks for all the comments everyone! Glad to hear you are all as fascinated as I am. The following morning a pack of 7 wolves ran across Round Lake so they are still in the area which is pretty exciting!