People know the BWCAW in no small part because of its iconic mammals like wolves, moose, bears, and beavers. But what about the lesser-known creatures that don’t quite hold the spotlight so well? Well in this week’s Jack Tropical’s Animal Facts, we will be discussing some little critters who don’t get the attention they deserve. Now let’s learn about the Fisher and the Red Squirrel.
The fisher, despite being referred to as a fisher cat in certain circles, is a member of the weasel family. In my research, I grew to appreciate the fisher as a rather unique animal and may now be one of my favorite members of the BWCAW cast. Members of the weasel family, they resemble the pine marten but are distinguishable by their larger size and darker monochrome coats. They, like many animals in the area, go through seasonal changes and malt in the summer, loosing their thick winter coat. Despite their warm and cuddly appearance, they are adept and even pugnacious predators known to punch above their weight class and hunt other, larger predators. Although their diet primarily consists of snowshoe hares, (rarely fish, however, as their name would suggest) nuts, berries, and mushrooms, they have also been known to hunt Canada lynx. Being aggressive predators, and having special foot and ankle adaptations that make them equally deadly on land, ice, or in trees, they are well adapted for life up north.
The red squirrel is an often seen and often heard fixture in the BWCAW. Upon learning about them it’s hard not to equate them to the average pre-teen who might come through camp. They are at a glance cute and energetic, but also noisy, messy, and last but not least they leave you with nothing other than the question, “why would you do that?” Residing in the northern regions of North America, they prefer to dwell in forests, preferably pine forests that provide them their favorite food: pine cones. Red squirrels are known as granivores, meaning they eat seeds. As they bounce and chitter their ways across the forest gathering up their cones, they create what is called a midden. This is where they gather the waste from their day-to-day life and it often contains feces and pine cone remnants. Squirrels give even the messy kids a run for their money, leaving a mess behind that can be twelve meters across. Although squirrels, and their messes, are quite pervasive in their habitats, they have to conquer an intimidating childhood gauntlet to make it to adulthood. Facing predation, starvation, competition, and even cases of infanticide, only about 22% of red squirrels survive to be one year old. Next time you run out of your tent cursing a squirrel to Dante’s inferno for stealing your granola, just remember: They might have earned a snack.