There are no breeding pairs of lynx in Minnesota

I’m not sure why I’ve just spent the past couple of hours digging into information about the lynx population in Minnesota over the years. It really doesn’t matter in the long run what people have said about the population over the years but it’s making me question some things.

One question is what was the reason for denying the existence of breeding lynx in Minnesota? Was it a conspiracy to get lynx placed on a threatened list so logging or other trapping couldn’t be done in that area? Was there funding available for state organizations if it was placed on a list? Or was the Minnesota DNR not spending time or resources to determine there were indeed breeding lynx in northern Minnesota? Why not believe locals or the scientists studying the lynx? It doesn’t make sense to me.

The other thing I question is, is 25 years a long time? I’ve lived in Northern Minnesota since 1993 so it will be 25 years this May. I guess things change over the years but going from threatened to unlisted in 17 years seems strange. It makes me wonder if there is an ulterior motive for delisting lynx right now. Maybe someone wants to do some logging or perhaps mining where a number of lynx live?

In our early days on the Gunflint Trail we were told, “There are no breeding pairs of lynx in Minnesota, they just come here during the winter from Canada.”  In spite of the fact lynx sightings occurred relatively frequently in our minds we didn’t really argue.

Just to prove this was actually said here’s something from a January 2018 article in the Duluth News Tribune.  “State officials at one time said the cat wasn’t really native to the state but only moved from Canada during some winters.”

And more proof I’m not crazy here’s what a 2003 article published by MPR said,  “Mike Leahy, counsel for Defenders of Wildlife says, “The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources had for a long time vehemently denied that there could possibly be more than one or two lynx in the entire state,” says Leahy. ”

Fast forward twenty years and the elusive, endangered, non-Minnesota breeding lynx are being spotted what seems like everywhere. Not just one at a time either as Thomas Spence proved the other day by his very popular photograph of a momma lynx with four kittens.

In fact lynx are doing so well the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced in January their plan to remove the lynx from the threatened species list where it’s been since 2000.

I even saw a lynx yesterday on my drive to Giant’s Ridge for a ski meet!

Does this seem strange to you? A remarkable and seemingly quick lynx recovery to those who claimed there were none in the 90’s and early 2000’s. The conflicting information seems weird. In one article it says lynx were gone from Minnesota in the 90’s and the other article says dozens were found in the 90’s and 2000’s. One place it says the DNR said there weren’t breeding lynx in Minnesota but scientists were finding dozens confirming a native population. How can such simple information be so misconstrued?

Maybe it comes down to communication? Is there cash involved? Have I been naive to think it’s really about the wildlife?  I don’t know.

 

 

I would like to know what you think. If you have time you can read the full articles in the Duluth News Tribune and MPR. I’ve included a few points from each of their articles as well as my own little timeline. If I’m being dense then please point that out to me so I can quit thinking about this. If you have theories then please share them with me. If you think I’m crazy then keep that to yourself!

 

  • by mid 1990’s lynx gone from MN- MPR 2003
  • 1990’s and 2000’s found dozens of lynx who stayed and bred here- DNT 2018
  • 2000 lynx spotted again- MPR 2003
  • 2000 placed on threatened species list
  • 2003 No where near getting the lynx de-listed- MPR 2003
  • 2010 stable lynx population- DNT 2018
  • 2018 possible de-listing of lynx- DNT 2018

Here’s a few points from John Meyer’s article in the DNT.

Minnesota has had a wildly fluctuating population of lynx in recent decades...State officials at one time said the cat wasn’t really native to the state but only moved from Canada during some winters.

But scientists who found ways to trap, collar and study the cat in the 1990s and 2000s soon found dozens in northern Minnesota that stayed and bred here, including new kittens, confirming the state’s native population.

A 2017 report from U.S. Forest Service biologists confirmed several lynx families in the region based on DNA evidence from hair and scat samples, most from the Superior National Forest. The report shows relatively stable lynx populations here since 2010.

Here are some points in the MPR article from 2003.

By the mid-1990s, lynx were considered gone from Minnesota. Until now. Three years ago, the cats were spotted again — on the Sawbill Trail up the hill from the North Shore, near Isabella and near Ely.

Burdette has just begun to count and track northeast Minnesota’s lynx. Two cats have been fitted with radio collars. It’s not yet clear how many others are wandering the forest. And Burdette says, lynx do wander.

It’s very likely that the majority of these animals migrated from Canada,” Burdette speculates. “These animals innately want to disperse long distances.”

Mike Leahy, counsel for Defenders of Wildlife, says it’s clear there are lynx in Minnesota.

“The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources had for a long time vehemently denied that there could possibly be more than one or two lynx in the entire state,” says Leahy. “And, they found indeed, there’s a resident population of lynx in Minnesota.”

Chris Burdette’s study will help create a lynx recovery plan. But he says recovery — actually getting the cat off federal protection — isn’t even on the horizon.

“No where near it,” he says. “Very preliminary stages. We’re just in the data collection stages now, so we can put some kind of scientific thoughts into the process of managing this species.”

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FIVE Lynx!

Seeing one lynx is amazing, but seeing five? Unbelievable! How awesome it would be to see this in the wild!

Thomas Spence Photo

Five Canada lynx walk down a road near Tofte on Saturday morning, Feb. 3, 2018. Thomas Spence was looking for moose to photograph when he saw the lynx. (Photo courtesy Thomas Spence via Forum News Service)

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Fantastic Photos

Our local photographer David Johnson took some awesome pictures the other day. Such beautiful creatures!

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Outdoor Etiquette

I love to see Matt Miller’s name when I read the “Ask a Conservation Officer” section in the Duluth News Tribune. Matt worked for us at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters quite a few years ago. This is a good piece about hunting and fishing laws versus etiquette.
Q: Last fall we arrived at a walk-in hunting area just after another hunter. We each proceeded to get ready to hunt, but then the other hunter told us he would leave to find another spot. Should we have been the ones to leave? Are there laws governing etiquette for hunting and fishing spots?

A: What you bring up is a very good point and applies to all kinds of outdoor recreation. First, there are no explicit laws or rules covering this situation. Hunter or angler harassment only covers situations where a person takes action with the intent to prevent another from taking part in a lawful activity. It seems your neighbor at the walk-in area recognized that perhaps each of you would have a better experience if someone left, and he took it upon himself to find another spot.

When it comes to choosing a spot to hunt or fish, you must consider different factors including who was there first, who has the physical ability to access different spots, and who may have young hunters or anglers along who might benefit from certain spots. Public lands are open for all to use, regardless if someone has been in a specific location for many years. Often, trying to force yourself into your preferred location creates less success for everyone, including you.

On a recent off-duty ice-fishing morning on an area harbor, I arrived early to set up. Several other anglers arrived and took their spots, drilling holes and setting up tents. One notable angler arrived much after everyone else, positioned himself within 25 feet of a couple other houses, and proceeded to take more than 10 minutes to first drill, then laboriously chisel, a large hole in the ice for himself, creating a very noisy disruption of the entire area.

Nothing about what he did was illegal, and some perhaps would not find it unethical. However, if he had considered the results that his actions would have on his success and that of others, he may have made some better choices about how to set up. Most hunting and fishing norms are driven by ethics, not laws, and that consideration is needed on each trip.

Matthew S. Miller is a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer with the Lake Superior Marine Unit.

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BWCA Winter Trek to Hegman Lake Pictographs

BWCA winter trip

Just like you can’t pick your relatives you can’t choose what the weather will be like on any given day. The temperature wasn’t ideal on Saturday with a high of maybe 1 degree but that’s the day we wanted to go to the pictographs on the shore of Hegman Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

We were visiting Tessa and Ryan in Ely, MN for the weekend and Tessa was game for taking Abby and I to the pictographs while Ryan took Mike and Josh spearing. Tessa and Ryan both worked with us at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters and are super fun to hang out with. The entry point to Hegman Lake is 15 miles from Ely off of the Echo Trail. The trek begins with an 80-rod portage into South Hegman Lake and there’s only one other 5-rod portage between South and North Hegman Lake.

Boundary Waters

BWCA Pictographs

We brought our snowshoes along but decided to use our cross-country skis since there was such a well beaten path. I never realized how easily accessible these BWCA pictographs were. It didn’t take too long to ski across the two relatively small yet strikingly beautiful lakes.

Before we knew it we were at the cliffs looking for the ancient paintings on the rock. Of all of the pictographs I’ve seen these are the best preserved. We took photos, drank a little hot tea, discussed the paintings and then retraced our steps back to the vehicle.

According to the USFS these pictographs in the BWCA are most likely 500-1000 years old. They say every picture is worth 1000 words and this one is no different. I usually just look at pictographs without giving them much thought but Tessa told me an interesting story about an interpretation of these particular ones.

From Astro Bob’s website– One recent interpretation of the enigmatic figures comes from Carl Gawboy, a member of the Bois Forte Reservation, who for many years taught American Indian studies at the College of St. Scholastica and University of Minnesota-Duluth. He contends the drawings represent Ojibwe Indian constellations — the human figure could be the Winter-maker, our Orion the Hunter, while the three canoes represent paddlers plying the Path of Souls or what we call the Milky Way. Kevin Callahan of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota agrees with Gawboy and suspects the dog and moose are star patterns below Orion, the dog being the equivalent of our Canis Major and the moose composed of stars in Eridanus the River and parts of other constellations. The paddlers in the leftmost canoe would represent the two bright stars in Gemini the Twins, the other pair might be Capella and its neighbor Beta Aurigae, while the third canoe has just one passenger —  the star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull. The horizontal markings may have been used for counting or tracking the passage of time. The artist must have squatted on the upper ledge with his mixture of red ochre (mineral pigment derived from clay) mixed with animal fat or sturgeon glue (derived from the fish’s spine) and dabbed it across the granite surface.

Maps: Stellarium, photo by Bob King

The winter sky (left) featuring Orion and the neighboring constellations of Eridanus the River, Taurus the Bull, Gemini the Twins and Canis Major the Greater Dog. At right is a view of the entire main pictograph panel and shows not only the three canoes but also a large red “X” that likely represents a star. Do you see similarities between the two?

We had an amazing adventure in the Boundary Waters checking out the pictographs.

Boundary Waters

North Hegman Lake

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BWCA Pictographs

We went to see some BWCA pictographs this weekend. Details to follow!

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Ice Fishing Fun

Josh got a drone so be prepared to be inundated with footage!

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More Winter says the Groundhog

The groundhog saw his shadow and that is fine with me! Here’s what Pat Sajak says about Groundhog’s Day. “Groundhog Day is the best holiday. No controversy. No triggering. No demonstrations. No statue defacing. And, best of all, no presents. Enjoy!”

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Found- two boys fishing

With all of the talk about how youth aren’t spending as much time outdoors these days it was nice to read the latest Minnesota Conservation Officer report.

CO Marty Stage (Ely) traveled into the BWCAW and found every party contacted that day to be in violation of some sort of fishing or litter law. But on another day, while checking a lone fish house on an Ely lake, the officer found two 15 year old boys fishing. When the officer remarked that it was unusual and refreshing to see them doing so, one young man volunteered that he had just sold his “Xbox” to pay for the new fish locator they were using.

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Pretty please polar vortex…

I hear there is a polar vortex that might push some cold weather our way. My fingers are crossed the cold temperatures will be pushed over the Apostles Islands so the lake will freeze solidly enough for people to visit the ice caves. By people I specifically mean, me!

I missed an opportunity to visit the ice caves one year. I was in the parking lot, ready to make the voyage but the temperature was super cold and of course there was a wind chill. The person I was with wasn’t as excited as I was to venture out onto the ice so we didn’t. That will not happen again!

There was ice in that area earlier this year but wind and waves destroyed it. Now it’s open water again. In fact, checking out their Facebook Page I see some people actually kayaked to the ice caves recently! The post does describe how dangerous it is to kayak near the ice caves in the winter and says the kayakers are experts.

In any case… I’m keeping my hopes up the polar vortex puts the area in a deep freeze long enough for the lake to freeze and me to visit!

Kayaking the Apostle Islands

 

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