Friday, July 27, 2007

Moose Bones

Today Chuck and Connie took us to meet Rolf and Candy Peterson, "the wolf people". Rolf started studying wolves on Isle Royale in 1958 while still a graduate student and next year is the 50th anniversary of the same study, the longest predator prey study in the world!

How to describe the Peterson's cabin?

Collecting moose bones is one of the main ways the Peterson's assess the health and interactions of the moose and consequently the wolves on Isle Royale. During our nice little picnic along the shore by their cabin, we were surrounded by 50 years worth of bones. Candy Peterson showed me the kinds of things they look for in the bones such as osteoporosis, and arthritis. Moose teeth also grow like trees, with visible rings, so Rolf Peterson takes out the front teeth from the jaw bones of the moose, grinds them down, and can then tell how old they were when they died. When the Peterson's started collecting bones back in the 1970s, the Peterson's did the dirty work themselves, walking off the trails throughout the island just waiting for the bones to appear. (Imagine in winter too, where Rolf went seven weeks at a time, carrying frozen moose bones across the island in below zero temperatures!) Now they have a wonderful system set up where volunteers from the Earthwatch Worldwide program pay to come to the island and walk through marshes and over downed trees to help pick up bones.

After visiting with the Peterson's we went back to Tobin Harbor and added a new experience to our life: canoed to a dinner party. Chuck had a little get together his cabin about a 1/2 mile row from ours. Menu: potato salad, ham, pesto pasta, cheddar dill cornbread and rhubarb pie.

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