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West End News: Aug.18

Lightning over the night sky
Lightning over the night sky

Finalcut_WEN_20110818.mp34.18 MB

We had a terrific bolt of lightning very close to Sawbill the other day.  It didn't actually strike one of our buildings, but it was close enough to give everyone a good scare.  The Sawbill Lake campground host, Jim Ter Beest, was standing next to his pickup truck and the blast literally dropped him to his knees.  Our satellite internet and television were knocked out, along with a couple of other small, but expensive electronic components.  The satellite transceivers are particularly sensitive to lightning, so I had squirreled away a replacement for just this occasion.  I didn't have a spare for the television, but frankly, there isn't much worth watching right now - nor do we have the time, so that won't be much of an issue.

Years ago, Dr. Mike Debevec did an informal study of injury and death in Cook County due to lightning strikes.  If I remember correctly, he found that lightning fatalities often happened to people that were lying down in their tents.  His theory was that the lightning usually struck a tree, but due to the shallow soils here, it would splatter out along the ground.  If it encountered a reclining camper, it would pass through the unfortunate soul from head to toe - or visa versa.  Mike recommended that if you are camping and a storm is bearing down on you, the best strategy is to squat on your foam sleeping pad.  He said you may have a shocking experience, but you should survive.

My daughter Ruthie and I tested Mike's method a few years ago when a storm swept over us while we were in the tent on the Parent River.  Lightning did strike very close, but did not pass through our tent.  The blast was loud enough that both of us had temporary hearing loss for the whole next day.  It was one of those experiences that makes a good story - as long as you survive it. Between a few close calls and some expensive property damage, I now get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I hear thunder approaching.

The Minnesota Department of Natural resources is recommending that deer feeding be banned in the entire Arrowhead region as a part of a comprehensive plan to help Minnesota's moose population recover.  While this is bound to be controversial and will be a real sacrifice for some people, I sure think it's a good idea if it helps the moose.  It has long been known that deer feeding doesn't really help the deer population.  In fact, it may actually do some harm by concentrating the deer and exposing them to disease and bringing them closer to highways which results in the inevitable car/deer interaction that is not good for either deer or car.  The DNR has dropped the number of moose hunting licenses down to a hundred and five bulls only, half of what it was last season.  They expect that around fifty bulls will actually be shot.  The wildlife biologists make a pretty good argument that shooting that many bulls doesn't really affect the total population, but they do plan to end hunting completely if the population continues to fall.  The biologists also feel that wolf predation has nothing to do with the decline.  Climate change is considered the most likely culprit.  All of this is really going to push some people's buttons, but in long run, I believe it's best to follow the evidence and not try to bend the evidence to what you believe.

A couple stopped in the store this week and mentioned that they had seen a very small bear cub on the Sawbill Trail about a mile south of Sawbill.  They did say that they saw it from a distance and didn't get a good look at it.  A few hours later, I was driving by the same spot and I saw a porcupine.  I got a very good look at it from close range and it was definitely a porcupine.  I was surprised because I haven't seen a porcupine in Cook County for at least twenty years.  A few miles further down the road, I stopped to pick up my neighbor, Rick Brandenberg and he said that his son Willy had seen a porcupine in their driveway a week or so earlier.  Now, I've heard a few other people mention porcupine sightings.  I don't mind having porcupines around, as long as our dogs don't decide to mix it up with them.

Photo by Qualsiasi via Creative Commons on Flickr