Almost everyone who visits Bearskin has high hopes of observing three specific northwoods animals. The number one goal is always to spot a moose, then glimpse a bear (but only the rear end, as it runs away), and maybe, with luck, see or hear a wolf.
So you might be surprised to know that none of those creatures are the animal that Bearskin guests talk about the most during their stay. Foxes are actually the critters that make our guests extra happy. Hundreds of photos of posing and preening foxes are snapped every summer around the Main Lodge. We sell dozens of fox stuffed animals, foxy kids’ purses, fox books, and fox cards.
Bearskin has a long history of having fairly tame red foxes living on the grounds of the resort. When we first arrived at Bearskin almost a decade ago, our employee Adde regularly made meals for a ridiculously tame fox, and even allowed the fox into her apartment occasionally. Foxes have been known to get in canoes, and supposedly a fox can untie a boat from the dock. They peek in windows, pose on deck railings, and occasionally run off with meat intended for the grill. The Shoe Stealing Fox (aka Imelda), was perhaps the most famous Bearskin fox, covertly sneaking flip flops, hiking boots, and tennis shoes off the deck and steps of cabin 7. Many a family combed the woods behind cabin 7, desperately trying to find a missing sneaker so a kid wouldn’t spend the remainder of their vacation limping around with only one shoe.
So here is a story to add to the fox legends: About a week ago, when the ice was still solid, Kate and Quinn observed a fox crossing the bay with something in her mouth. At first they assumed the fox was carrying a rabbit or squirrel, killed for dinner. But as they looked more closely, they realized she was carrying a baby fox kit all the way across the lake. Then she came back for another. And another, and another. By the time she was done ferrying her whole litter across the lake, the fox looked exhausted. It was no small task to move her family. This was peculiar behavior. Quinn and Kate wondered why she would go to that much trouble to abandon a home and move so far away.
Previously, Quinn and Bob had been rebuilding the steps to cabin 7. When they pulled the old steps off, they found chewed boards, broken styrofoam, and multiple signs that animals had been tunneling under cabin 7 for years. So, of course, Quinn and Bob did a top-notch job of resealing every crack and hole, nailing up new boards and filling every possible animal entry point with spray foam. No creature would be getting back under that cabin!
Quinn thought about the fox mother for a few days and then started to wonder if her grueling move might be connected in some way to the rebuilding of the cabin 7 steps. Yesterday Quinn and Bob went back to cabin 7 and pulled off a few of the new boards, attempting to see under the steps.
It was a surprise to discover a sizable fresh tunnel under the steps, circumventing their repairs. At that point it became apparent what must have happened: Bob and Quinn had accidentally entombed the litter of baby foxes. For two days they had worked on the steps, sawing and pounding and probably terrorizing a little fox family. When the job was over and the foxes’ fear subsided, that mother dug an incredibly difficult new tunnel, removed all her babies, and stoically carried all of them as far away from that dreadful Cabin 7 as she possibly could.
We were left with two thoughts:
First, that is an extraordinarily heroic fox mother.
And secondly, deep under cabin 7 there are probably several years’ worth of missing shoes.
Fox photo by Jane Kolarich