The 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Adventures

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Balsam Fir Trees

Loreen Niewenhuis is an author, adventurer, and Great Lakes speaker. She has completed a trilogy of 1,000-mile adventures exploring the Great Lakes and has written three books about the Great Lakes [A 1,000-Mile Walk on the Beach *a Heartland Indie Bestseller*A 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Walk *winner of the Great Lakes Great Reads Award*, and A 1,000-Mile Great Lakes Island Adventure]. To learn more about her work, or to book her as a speaker, go to

This year I hiked my third Moosewatch Expedition on Isle Royale. 
In addition to gathering moose bones, teams also gathered data from shed antlers, and tallied  sightings of gray jays and snowshoe hares.

Gray jay

Snowshoe hare

Another important assessment in the field was the availability of winter browse for moose.
In the winter, moose eat primarily balsam fir trees.

Tiny, munchable balsam firs populate the island

As the moose population grows on Isle Royale (with only 2 wolves left on the island, there is no predator pressure to stabilize the moose population), there are more moose mouths to feed during the long winters. 

Moose will repeatedly munch these trees. Some tiny trees are actually decades old!

This poor tree has had its top munched off multiple times leading to this crazy growth pattern.

It's rare to see tall balsam fir here, but my team found some trees that had evaded browsing long enough for them to reach over two meters tall! They were luckier than the trees in these photos.

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