A Thin Crust - Wilderness North

Celebrating 30 Years of Wilderness North  –          

A Thin Crust

No, I haven’t taken up cooking, just ask Krista. Ok, maybe don’t, that is a sensitive topic.

According to many indigenous people, freeze up and spring break up are seasons onto themselves. There are a number of changes that occur at this time of year that make up the transition we experience to and from winter. Given what’s going on around us, I am pretty open minded these days. So yes, there are six seasons! We have seen many of the subtle day-to-day changes this year, as we do our part to flatten the curve.

The overall ecology of the boreal forest is largely governed by snowfall and the metamorphosis it undergoes on the ground. In the past two weeks, the powder and thin crust of hard snow on top has given way to a much thicker layer of snow and ice that is harder and now supports us, without snowshoes, on crisp early morning walks. At the beginning of the winter season, once we get about six inches of snow, the layer right along the ground undergoes a change. It metamorphizes into a course granular snow that allows the moles, mice, shrew to burrow around at temperatures that stay just below freezing.

We have often had a “pet” fox, that makes its rounds on the lake, over the years. This year, she (or maybe he) looks like a very healthy pup, as you can see in the pictures below. Even the wolf, that Dan captured in the photo last week, looks amazingly healthy. This can likely be attributed to a normal snow fall and relatively mild winter. There were little to no days or nights that dipped below -40 (Celsius or Fahrenheit – all the same at this level) in Thunder Bay and only a few further north. Foxes use that thin crusty layer of snow that exists most of the winter to hunt. They can hear their prey tunnelling along the ground. I once saw a fox run back and forth on top of the snow, as if to play, then pounce and dive for their next meal. It’s quite something to witness.


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