Life and Death on the Gunflint Trail

Loon Photo by Diane Brown    

 The world of wildlife on the Gunflint Trail is an awesome one to experience.  We’re so fortunate to see such a variety of critters both young and old on a daily basis.  It’s so fun to hear the excitement in the voices of our guests when they talk about their recent wildlife encounters. 

     The most recent wildlife announcement is the appearance of baby loons.  We normally don’t hear about baby loons until the 4th of July but we’ve already had numerous guests report seeing them.  The young loons ride around safely tucked into the feathers of their parent’s back, you can hardly tell they are there.  Then out splashes the baby into the water for a quick swim under the watchful care of the parents.  Northern pike, snapping turtles, Eagles and other predators are a constant threat to the safety and survival of the babies.  The survival of the fittest is life versus death in the wild.

     There are still many grouse chicks trailing behind their mothers.  For some reason these moms find it necessary to play chicken with the vehicles on the Gunflint Trail.  I’ve honked and stopped to shoo them back into the ditch numerous times but they just don’t seem to learn.  A group of 12 chicks quickly dwindles to just 1 or 2 within what it seems days of their birth.

     The turtles have been seen crossing the Gunflint Trail too.  They are making their way to a far better nesting site that must exist on the other side of the road.  The fortunate turtles who make it back and forth across the road and successfully lay their eggs still don’t have very good odds of having young turtles.  On a walk yesterday morning I came across a dug up hole with broken eggshells scattered everywhere.  These poor little creatures never had the chance at life outside of a shell like the dime sized hatchlings do.

     I’m not sure what the specific survival rates are for each species but I know I am wary to get too attached to the trio of tiny foxes living on our road.  Their mom is way too tame and runs up to vehicles that slow down for a handout.  They will no doubt follow the habits of their mother unaware of the dangers of getting too close to the tires.

     It’s fun to name the critters that are a part of our everyday lives here at the end of the Gunflint Trail.  But if we become too attached to them then we risk the chance of being hurt when we no longer see them around.  But I guess that’s life and death as it is in the animal kingdom on the Gunflint Trail and everywhere.