As we paddle through the mist of inland Lake Ritchie a loon calls, or was it a wolf? Some loon calls sounds similar to a wolf's howl. There is an abrupt splash behind us. The boat rocks as we turn to look. Perhaps we startled a beaver, a duck or an otter. We stop paddling but the canoe continues to drift.
The tops of pointy conifers and paper birch are barely discernable through the quiet morning fog. The sloshing we hear on the far shore can only be a moose. Yes, we see it now, climbing from the boggy marsh near the Indian Portage Trail. It is a cow, with a calf in tow, now tromping through the abundant thimbleberry ground cover. An osprey circles high above, its eyes keenly scanning the waters and rocky shore. It soars ever higher, over the Greenstone Ridge toward Canada and the northern shores of great Lake Superior.
Isle Royale's Wilderness provides habitat for many creatures. The island's isolation creates simple ecosystems. Fourteen or possibly more species of mammals occupy the island. All of Isle Royale's creatures create their own natural survival/extinction saga. As recent as 1927 caribou and coyote dotted the landscape. The island now is devoid of these creatures, having given way to other species.
The island was once called Minong by past cultures, which translated means "a good place to pick berries" . Why haven't black bear found their way to this place? There are also no raccoon on Isle Royale. These creatures thrive just 12 miles away in Minnesota and Ontario, Canada.
The beaver have used up much of the softwood forest and aquatic environment that once supported larger numbers. The moose threaten to strain their limited food supply. A walk along most trails will reveal evidence of this in the form of "moose browse". And what will become of the moose which currently number 540, while wolf numbers hover at 30? Step inside for a closer view. Minong awaits..