A mystery at the secret heart of the wilderness

A wolverine is haunting my partner Sam. Or hunting him? Either way, suddenly wherever he goes, there seem to be wolverine tracks or the animal…

A wolverine is haunting my partner Sam.

Or hunting him?

Either way, suddenly wherever he goes, there seem to be wolverine tracks or the animal itself scuttling away. Weaving through the forest, scaling impossibly steep icy cliffs, galloping down a snowmachine trail — the wolverine is close at hand.

This kind of thing, endless sightings of a certain type of animal over a period of time, appears to be as cyclical as the seasons.

No doubt there is a close connection to the food situation in the animal’s habitat, weather conditions and life cycle.

Obviously, in early summer there is a good chance of seeing bears on south-facing grassy slopes, or many lynx when the snowshoe hare cycle is up.

That is not what I mean, though.

It looks like there is a rhythm to some animal encounters, another dimension into which factors either a lackadaisical attitude of animal species about crossing a human’s path, or else they make an active choice of showing themselves for some strange reason.

Sounds too esoteric? It well might be, I don’t know.

What started me thinking about this was one summer when I had an inordinate number of bear encounters. Each and every one occurred only in Sam’s absence.

At first is seemed to be pure coincidence, but by the fourth or fifth time that I (figuratively) bumped into a bear while Sam was inside the cabin, had just left to go fishing or was over in the garden, it really became a bit weird.

It was almost as if the bears (and it was always a different one) kept a close eye on us and whenever I was somewhere alone, one would decide to amble up or situate himself behind a berry bush in my path.

Last winter it was moose.

To be sure, the record snow pack probably kept them in certain areas — but they showed the same nonchalant attitude as those bears, (and now the wolverine) by calmly displaying themselves in full view.

Thinking back to my old weekend warrior times, before we moved into the bush, when the clutter of a “normal” lifestyle swamped observations such as these, it still seems to me that this sort of thing also occurred to me back then.

One year it was wolves, another countless lynx, and one winter caribou.

Only it didn’t stand out so much because there was more going on in my life then than now, when much time is spent looking for animal neighbours, admiring the view and listening for sounds.

Scientists, and maybe many laypeople might be rolling their eyes at trying to invest such strings of encounters with any sort of meaning other than coincidence, fluctuations in numbers or behaviour patterns.

Quite possibly they are right.

Yet I wonder how we can still retain an in-depth understanding of what goes on in the woods these days.

Almost all of us live in cities or towns, don’t grow or hunt our food, and are dependent on the services of other people and companies to fulfill most of our wants and needs.

To me, the scientific way of studying wildlife and ecosystems misses the vital points, the essence of wild animals, their habitat and the interconnectedness.

It is usually someone from the outside looking in, much in the way of tourists on a three-week tour of Europe.

Obvious things will catch the eye, but the nuances, local accents and peculiarities will most likely escape notice or their meaning can’t be grasped.

We feel equally at sea in our life out here, often being puzzled and sensing our ignorance about the way of the woods.

A true knowledge can probably only be gained by cultures that depend on a daily basis upon understanding the patterns and moods of wild animals, plants and the weather.

This is one of the great tragedies of the colonization of indigenous peoples all over the world: the vast loss of wisdom about the natural world around us, painstakingly gleaned over tens of thousands of years.

Of course humanity still depends on understanding our ecosystems, but we have now set ourselves up in such a way that this is nearly impossible to accomplish.

So we keep wondering why the wolverine is accompanying Sam, and what species will next make strange and frequent appearances.

What animal is haunting you?

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sport Yukon held its 45th annual Member Awards on Dec. 3, recognizing the achievements of nearly 80 athletes, coaches, volunteers and administrators from 16 different organizations. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Sport Yukon hands out the hardware, virtually

Awards ceremony recognizes athletes, coaches, volunteers and administrators

Commissioner of Yukon Anglique Bernard, in her role as Chancellor of the Order of Yukon, announced the 2020 Order of the Yukon inductees in a statement Dec. 2. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Order of Yukon inductees announced

Ten Yukoners will receive territory’s highest honour

The primary goal of the new relief package for tourism operators is to support the tourism sector, whether they’re private industry or not-for-profit organizations, said Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Relief program offers funds for businesses that rely on tourists for more than half their revenue

Two new streams of funding, in addition to the accommodation relief program, were announced

Kimberly Armstrong, creator of Glimmer of Hope, poses for a photo with examples of toys for packages she is putting together. The care packages are for children who have suffered abuse, trauma, illness or sudden loss. (Kimberly Armstrong/Submitted)
Kids experiencing trauma will receive gifts from new charity

A Whitehorse woman is compiling care packages for children who have suffered… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: Climate emergency, lite edition

Back in September 2019, Whitehorse City Council declared a climate emergency, to… Continue reading

In 1909, Joseph Kavetzki took over Brown’s Harness Shop, depicted here, reconstructed, 90 years later. Third Avenue in Dawson, south of Princess Street, was the heart of the blue collar industrial section of gold rush Dawson. (Michael Gates/Yukon News)
History Hunter: The Yukon is rich in hidden history

I had worked for a few months in my new position as… Continue reading

A sign outside the Yukon Inn Convention Centre indicates Yukoners can get a flu vaccine inside. As of Dec. 4, the vaccinations won’t be available at the convention centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse Convention Centre ends flu vaccination service early

Flu vaccinations won’t be available at the Whitehorse Convention Centre after Dec.… Continue reading

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Kindness, shingles and speed limits

Letters to the editor published Dec. 4, 2020

ASDF
COMMENTARY: Land use planning must include industry

Carl Schulze Special to the News This commentary is a response to… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Nominations continue to be open for Northern Tutchone members of the White River First Nation to run for councillors in the 2021 election. (Maura Forrest/Yukon News File)
White River First Nation to elect new chief and council

Nominations continue to be open for Northern Tutchone members of the White… Continue reading

The Town of Watson Lake has elected John Devries as a new councillor in a byelection held Dec. 3. (Wikimedia Commons)
Watson Lake elects new councillor

The Town of Watson Lake has elected John Devries as a new… Continue reading

The new Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation council elected Dec. 1. (Submitted)
Little Salmon Carmacks elects new chief, council

Nicole Tom elected chief of Little Salmon Carcmacks First Nation

Most Read