Welcome to the BWCAW blog of Ely Outfitting Company and Boundary Waters Guide Service!

See our websites at ElyOutfittingCompany.com and BoundaryWatersGuideService.com.

We are a Boundary Waters canoe trip outfitter, Quetico outfitter, and guide service in Ely, Minnesota. This Boundary Waters blog shares photos, stories, humor, skills, and naturalist insights from guiding in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).

Most entries are from our founder and head guide, Jason Zabokrtsky. He is the Boundary Waters Blogger.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Icy Conditions Keep Us Dogsledding

Spring is on its way. We finish up the last of our dogsledding season this week. Temperatures will reach up to the 40s later this week and we will shortly see our snow disappear. But we felt lucky that these last few days have stayed cold, with overnight lows even below zero. The warmer temperatures of the last few weeks caused the snow pack on the lake to compact. This week’s cold dips turned the surface to slick ice.

With slick ice, conditions for dogsledding are fast! Amanda came with her family from Florida, and here, she enjoys driving her own team next to beautiful Blueberry Cliffs.

Sled-dog Achota pulled Amanda’s sister Elizabeth on her own sled. High 20s and full sun in the afternoon caused the icy snow under Achota’s paws to soften just enough to allow her and the other dogs to get a grip on the ice.

Spring is showing itself on the lakes in another way, as well. As the water level under the ice drops, the ice sags in the center. Along the shore, cracks start to form as the lower ice pulls apart from the ice frozen to shore. Not to worry, though. The ice is still solid enough to safely hold anyone, including an entire dog team. In fact, when cutting a hole in the ice for a sauna experience later that evening, Amanda and Elizabeth found that the lake ice was still over a foot thick.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lily the Black Bear and Her Cubs Welcoming Spring Near Ely, MN

It is a sure sign of spring when our local black bears become more and more active. This video shows some wild research bears and cubs near Ely, MN, this week. The North American Bear Center is studying them in their natural environment. This den cam gives us a great look at what is happening in the woods right now.

A Job in the Woods

Here's an opportunity to work in the outdoors with young people improving the trails in Superior National Forest.  Note the job application deadline is March 20, 2011.
Position: Field Specialist - Trail Maintenance
Number of Positions Available: 2
Location: Ely OR Grand Marais/Tofte Minnesota
Term: April 11 – September 15, 2011
Schedule: Full-time, Temporary, flexing schedule 10 hour days typical, some weekends required  
Benefits: Stipend $1975 per month; post-service AmeriCorps education award $2675
The Conservation Corps provides hands-on environmental stewardship and service-learning opportunities to youth and young adults through natural resource management projects. 

More info at:  http://conservationcorps.catsone.com/careers/index.php?m=portal&a=details&jobOrderID=384925.  This photo shows a Minnesota Conservation Corps crew we saw working on trails in the BWCAW last summer.  These crews are very well trained and, in our experience, build quality trails that will last for many, many years.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Late-ice Crappies are Biting

It's the time of year that ice fishermen are in search of late season crappies.  We found these slabs this week suspended at about 17 feet deep.  I'm looking forward to the fish fry.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Female Wolf, Maya, Dies at the International Wolf Center

Maya, a seven-year-old resident female wolf at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, was euthanized Tuesday after a veterinary determination that a compound fracture and dislocation to her left hind leg could not be repaired. 

The decision to euthanize Maya was made in accordance with requirements of the USDA Animal Welfare Act and an organizational euthanasia policy approved by the Center’s Vet Care Team. The Center would specifically like to thank veterinarians Stacy Skoraczewski and Peter Hughes for their immediate help at a critical time.

“This was a very difficult decision for the staff and vet care team,” said Executive Director, Mary Ortiz. “Maya has been an important member of the Exhibit Pack since 2004, and she will be missed by us all.”

In the past several months there have been several tests of status from the younger pack members towards the dominant male, Grizzer, but Maya has shown intense dominance control over the entire pack. The injury occurred sometime after 5 pm on Monday, when the final daily check on the wolves revealed pack dynamics to be calm. 

Challenging older animals for dominance is a common behavior in wolves. Wild wolf packs are typically composed of parents and their offspring, so testing may be less intense than in captivity. The inherent rank order behavior begins as young as 13 days of age, and is often seen when older pack members begin to age and show weakness, opening an opportunity for younger animals to move up in rank. 

Due to a recent cold spell, no active surveillance cameras on the pack were live to capture the specific incident that led to Maya’s injury. Icy conditions in the enclosure may have been a factor, as active running animals can slip on ice creating an injury that could be viewed as a weakness. Maya did have several bite wounds apparent upon inspection, which may indicate involvement of other wolves.

In the absence of Maya, her littermate Grizzer may be vulnerable to the younger animals and has been moved to a separate enclosure where he will retire from the exhibit.