A Living Monument

Josiah A. King and his three-man crewRecently I was finally able to visit a place that I had only heard about since moving here to Bemidji.  A place where towering giants live.  A place where majestic white and red pines have been spared the lumberjack’s ax and saw to become an old growth sanctuary.  This place is the Lost Forty.

It takes a little doing to get there as the name of this place would suggest.  Not exactly on the main route today, one can only imagine what the territory looked like 125 years ago.  A survey crew’s error in 1882 mapped the Lost Forty, which is actually 144 acres, as being underwater in nearby Coddington Lake.  Surveyor Josiah A. King and his three-Lost 40man crew had traveled over 40 miles from the nearest white settlement of Grand Rapids for the project of finishing one of the first land surveys of Northern Minnesota.  For a month, in the unsettling winds of November the survey team lived in canvas tents and on rations of flour, pork, beans, and dried apples.  An error at the time has created a testament to our North Woods heritage.

Today, with only two percent of Minnesota’s forested land considered to be old growth, this stand of virgin pine has Monster white and red pinesbecome a monument within the Chippewa National Forest.  These magnificent trees are between 300 and 400 years old.  That’s well over 100 years older than this great country itself, dating back to the 17th century and the first colonial settlements.  Many of the behemoths are up to 350 years old and are just now reaching retirement age as compared to our life span.  White and red pines can live to about 500 years old.  Between 22 and 48 inches in diameter, this old growth stand, and others like it, are valuable habitat for bald eagles, hawks, woodpeckers, weasels, red squirrels, and other wildlife.

A View to the NorthMy visit was not long, but I will make the trek back to this special place again, as walking the trails felt like I was entering the corridors of some great hall or temple that has stood the test of time.

Minnesota Moose and Bear Hunting Application Deadlines

Bull MooseJust a reminder that the Minnesota bull moose and black bear hunting applications have a deadline of May 2nd this year.  All resident hunters should apply for a moose or bear hunting license using the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) computerized Electronic License System (ELS) at one of 1,800 Point-of-Sale (POS) agents.  The moose hunt is Minnesota residents only, but non-resident bear hunters may apply through the mail using a printable application form.  Through a link at the DNR website, hunters may also apply over the phone or over the internet, but there is a $3.50 convenience fee tacked on for this service (and when I checked the link at the DNR website – it didn’t seem to be finding the connection).

For bear hunters, application in the lottery is only necessary if you plan to hunt one of the quota areas in the black bear zone.  There are 11,850 licenses allocated across 11 quota areas.  No-quota area bear hunters may purchase their license over the counter at one of the POS Agents.  In order to qualify to purchase under-subscribed, or excess, bear licenses, a hunter has to be an unsuccessful lottery applicant.  Those licenses go on sale August 4th at noon on a first-come, first-served basis at any POS agent.  New for this year is the ability to apply for preference only.  By selecting the Preference Only Area 99, the applicant will be unsuccessful in this year’s lottery, but will acquire one preference point in order to improve their chances in a future lottery.

This year’s bear season, as usual, opens September 1st and runs through October 12th.  Baiting may begin on August 15th this year.  In the thick forests of the Minnesota North Woods, baiting is a legal method in the hunt for black bears.  There are requirements, guidelines and restrictions on how you may set up a bait site and Area 22, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), requires baits or attractants to be attended at all times.  Check out the Bear Hunting page at the DNR website for more information.

As well as the moose season being open to residents only, it is also a once-in-a-lifetime hunt, unless you hunted moose prior to 1991 – then you still can apply for a tag.  The moose hunt must be applied for in parties of 2-4 persons.  Check out the Moose Hunting page at the DNR website for more information, and especially take a look at the “Wilderness Moose Hunt”, an article by Chris Niskanen that appeared in the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer magazine for September-October of 2006.

This year’s moose season is October 4th – 19th in the Northeast Zone only and since last year has only been a bull moose hunt.  The Minnesota moose herd has seen a severely declining population in recent years which has led to closing he Northwest moose zone and restricting the remaining hunt to bulls only.

Researchers are feverishly working to find the reasons why the population has seen such a drastic decline.  Some theories suggest that warming climates leading to heat stress, encroaching exploding deer populations, and parasites like liver fluke, brainworm, and winter ticks as well as predators and habitat loss are the contributors to the decline in numbers, but so far a hard and fast reason has eluded researchers.  It may be a combination of these reasons, so researchers are intensely studying the herd looking for clues that will suggest the cause and possibly ways to help the moose fight what is threatening the herd.  Declining moose numbers are not unique to Minnesota.  When I searched the web for information on some of these threats, I found numerous sites, studies and articles that have documented some of the research that has been done all over moose’s North American range.  Below you will find links to some of the best of those findings.