2/27/11 - It's Clare Hansen's birthday today. She lived at Sawbill full time for the first 18 years of her life and now makes her home in Missoula, Montana. She's been accepted to the University of Montana Law School and will likely be there for the next three years. She has agreed to come back to Sawbill to work for a few weeks during the busy season this summer and are we glad to have her coming back! Happy birthday Clare!
Former Sawbill crew member Alison Bents (Behm) just auditioned to be the new cello player for the nationally known band with Minnesota roots, Cloud Cult. Alison is a fabulous musician and would be a great addition to the band that lives, breathes and sings the values of sustainability and tolerance. Good luck Alison!
Our fabulous local community radio station, WTIP, has asked me to take over my dad Frank's weekly commentary, The West End News. Frank wrote a column with the same title for our local weekly paper, The Cook County News-Herald, for many years. When the paper changed hands a few years ago, they dropped all the local columnists who were picked up by WTIP. In the last years of Frank's life, one of his favorite activities was going down to the radio station to record his commentary. He also volunteered at the station and really enjoyed all the fine people there. The staff tells me that Frank's commentary gathered the most hits on their website. I am honored to be asked to continue the tradition and only hope that I can half as well as Frank did. You can read or listen to my initial efforts on the WTIP website.
By the way, WTIP provides some amazingly good programming. You can stream it to your computer anytime. There are many good programs, but I particularly recommend "Sidetracks" hosted by Cathy Quinn on weekdays from 10 am - noon. In my opinion, Cathy has fantastic taste in music. - Bill
2/12/11 - It's raining bobcats! After our bobcat adventure last week, which culminated in our live trapping a bobcat that was living under our deck and posting the nerve wracking release on YouTube (scroll down if you want to view it), we got a lot of feedback, including postings on two popular blogs and Facebook. A couple of days later, our next door neighbors, who live 12 miles away, visited for some tea and skiing. As we were chatting at the dining room table, we glanced outside and were surprised to see a bobcat sitting on the ski trail about 100 feet from the house. With careful binocular examination, we determined that this was a different bobcat than the one we had previously released.
Although it appears to be sleeping, this cat was carefully monitoring squirrel activity around our bird feeders. An hour later, we found a fresh squirrel tail and a spot of blood on the ski trail just around the corner from this picture.
A non-telephoto shot of the cat. Different coloring and larger ears convinced us that this is a different bobcat.
Our neighbors shared that they also have a bobcat visiting their house and they'd heard about another home that had a bobcat under their deck. Also, after they left, they called to say that they saw a bobcat on the Sawbill Trail a few miles south of here. Since then, we've heard about yet another "bird feeder" bobcat in the county, so it seems as though the stress on the cats must be fairly universal and they are showing up everywhere.
Our latest visitor hasn't holed up under the deck like the last one did. The dogs spotted it the next morning, but it just ran away instead of trying to hide. Last night, our terrier Phoebe, Chief of Outfitter Security, started barking wildly from her window perch. I went outside and found large bobcat tracks in the fresh snow right in front of the window.
We've decided not to trap this bobcat, as long as it doesn't try to live under the deck. Hopefully, the coming warm weather will cause the snow to crust over enough so the bobcats can return to their normal haunts. - bill
2/10/11 - Hans Neve, longtime Sawbill camper, was kind enough to send these pictures of his son Grant during their recent winter camping trip on Sawbill Lake. - Bill
2/8/11 - Here is the video of a nervous Bill and Cindy releasing the bobcat that was living under the deck.
2/7/11 - The bobcat story continues... Cindy had the great sighting of a bobcat with a squirrel in its mouth a few days ago (see story below). The next day we heard a loud thump outside the store. The dogs were already outside and the noise set them to barking. Suddenly their barks turned from routine "What's that strange noise?" to frantic, high pitched "Oh my God, it's time to panic."
They headed around to the back of the store so I went out to investigate. Just as I stepped outside, the bobcat loped across the driveway about five feet in front of me with the two terriers in pursuit. The funny thing was that the big cat wasn't really running and neither were the dogs. The dogs were game to give chase, but clearly didn't want to catch a 25 pound wildcat. The bobcat headed under our house deck and Phoebe, our chief of outfitter security went under there too and barked at it for the rest of the afternoon and evening. She finally gave up and came inside when it got dark.
The next morning, there was a patch of frozen blood and a flying squirrel tail on the store deck in the same spot where the red squirrel had met it's end the day before. Incidentally, flying squirrel tails are very interesting. They look like a large feather because the squirrels actually use them for steering while they are gliding around in the dark.
The next afternoon, Phoebe again started barking under the deck. We were going to town, so I put on coveralls and crawled under there to retrieve her. I was surprised to find that she and the bobcat were nose to nose with Phoebe barking and the bobcat growling. From time to time the bobcat would take a swing at Phoebe and she would yelp as if injured, but I don't think it actually made contact. After dragging the excited terrier out from under the deck, I crawled back under and got these pictures.
Later that evening, just as the Superbowl was starting, I flipped on the outside light and was very surprised to find the bobcat right at my feet with its nose pressed against the sliding glass door staring into the living room. After careful discussion, we decided that considering its strange behavior and the hours of barking and growling that we were bound to endure in the future, that we would set a live trap and move the bobcat to a new location. The trap was set, baited with sliced turkey, and we soon had a caged bobcat.
We quickly drove our bobcat friend to an undisclosed and distant location and released it back into the wild. We recorded the release on video and I will post a link to it soon. - Bill
2/4/11 - While working in the office yesterday, Cindy heard a commotion outside on the deck near the front door to the store. She went to the glass door to investigate and was surprised to see a bobcat on the deck with a squirrel in its mouth! She and the three dogs were stunned by the sight and none of them made a sound for about 15 seconds. Then the dying squirrel gave a few final kicks and the dogs came to life with wild barking. The bobcat was unconcerned and continued to gaze at them through the door, less than 15 feet away, for more than a minute before trotting away.
We've been seeing more bobcats and lynx in recent years. When I was a kid, we saw them fairly frequently, but during the '80s and 90's I didn't see even a single track. It is good to have the boreal cats back in the neighborhood. - Bill