The islands have far less species diversity than the mainland as a result of their limited land area and, even in this close-to-pristine location, human influences still have a large effect on the species found here - it is possible that humans may have even influenced the establishment of the islands most famous residents, the moose.
`*Adapted from Gordon Lightfoot's Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
As we were setting up camp at Daisy Farm - one of the backcountry campsites on the southern side of the big island - we heard crashing footprints coming through the woods toward us. Out of the trees and underbrush stepped a lean, short-grey-haired woman wearing high wading boots and a worn-down sweatshirt. Upon first making eye contact with her deep brown eyes that were full of energy and listening to her exclaim "I don't think that was the way I was supposed to come!" as she stepped back on the trail, it was clear that this was the famous 'moose lady'.
It turns out that on Wednesday and Sunday nights, Candy and Rolf, 'the moose lady and the wolf guy' kayak or canoe over to Daisy Farm to give a short presentation to any campers about their research and to display some of the many bones and artifacts that have collected at their house.
It turns out that although it was FREEZING when we ferried across to Isle Royale (and when I decided to jump in the lake because I simply cannot pass up the opportunity to do such a thing), it had been an unusually warm summer, making moose spottings extremely rare. It was disappointing given that I felt like I should see a moose on my visit, but excitingly an apple tree had fallen near the outskirts of Daisy Farm, and wolves were visiting it to get a delicious bite.
As the night fell, Candy and Rolf departed and I began to set up for the night. Just as I was about to crawl in my tent, I heard crashing footprints coming through the trees again. I was rather taken aback, as I couldn't imagine that a hiker would be so loud and walking through the trees at this time of night! But, I continued to listen and the crashing got louder and louder... the sound of full limbs of trees being sheared off hinted to me that this was no typical hiker. I put my headlamp on full beam and shined it out towards the noise. A single silver eye, about a foot off the ground, peered back at me though the darkness. Then another, about a foot away and a similar height off the ground, peered at me as well. "What the heck?" I thought, "Is that a pair of wolves?" The breaking sticks and branches resumed and the eyes moved, in unison, closer. From the darkness around them emerged a ghostly grey set of massive antlers moving directly towards me at quite a pace. I think this bull moose wanted to battle, and I answered the call by showing him who was boss... I immediately turned off the light and ducked into a tight ball behind my tent.
I think that really showed him, as the breaking sticks took a sharp turn to the west and faded off into the night.
I searched around for it, and slowly the realization became more and more clear. The words of a ranger who told us a funny story about a fox stealing an unattended boot began reverberating in my head. I went into frenzy mode and ran down the trail, hoping to find some long gone culprit of the woods. I didn't find my culprit. But, what I did find was a tattered, bitten off yellow and orange shoelace, characteristic of my hiking boots.
So, if you visit Isle Royale and see a crafty fox walking around with only one boot on, ask him if it really fits him that well anyway.
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