snow is telling it all

Moose alarm! I don't even try to get my eyelids unstuck, they're too heavy, motionless like my limbs at this ungodly hour. Wilson barks again.

Moose alarm! I don’t even try to get my eyelids unstuck, they’re too heavy, motionless like my limbs at this ungodly hour. Wilson barks again. Words rumble their way up through my chest and throat, out through sleep-clenched teeth into what I presume to be darkness: “Shut up.” Too tired to add an exclamation mark.

Sam rolls over on his side with a heavy sigh. My mind hovers in semi-consciousness, ready to snap at the puppy, ready to slip back into the dream I just had; something about looking for things and not finding them. Ah, too much like reality. “Ruff,” goes the dog once more.

I raise my head a quarter inch off the pillow to muster more authority. “Wilson, no. Go on your blanket.” Plonk. Dog on blanket, head on pillow. Back to sleep.

It’s great to have moose around the cabin until you get yourself a puppy with the urgent need to alert his family members to all nightly movements of these creatures. Though sometimes, he barks at other things, quite possibly at spooks that leave no tracks. Now that there’s snow, it’s easy to check up on his alarm calls in the morning.

What a traitor winter is: serving up all tracks to us sight-hunters, too underdeveloped in the fine art of smelling and too insensitive to hear much. Unlike Wilson. I circle around the cabin on my morning chores, hauling up water from the creek and feeding the chickens. He was right last night – here are the hoof prints of a cow and, a bit further off to the side, her calf.

I wander along their tracks to where they stopped to give the wild saskatoons their annual pruning: the core of the amputated twigs glints fresh and greenish. Then a few spots where the snow has been brushed away on the ground and grass is trimmed to lawn-bowling shortness. I abandon the moose tracks to walk over to the chicken coop where, lo and behold, the cow and calf are continuing their breakfast.

“Morning,” I greet them and earn an astonished stare from the calf as if it was most surprising that people should be where people smells and buildings are. Moose calves seem to be stuck in a perpetual state of wonder and surprise. His mom twirls her ears, the equivalent of a shoulder shrug as far as I can tell. While she gets back to munching willow twigs, I sneak a quick peek at her bell, trying to be all professional and bushwise in my moose identification.

But no, she’s not the cow who was keeping us company last winter, unless she completely rearranged the dangling flap of fur underneath her chin. That’s a bit of a let-down; I’d been looking forward to sagely report that I recognized this cow. But I don’t. I let the chickens out and check for signs of undue ermine interest around the enclosure but only find a mouse highway. This is an opportune time to find out who is behind the theft of strawberry leaves – the snow should give the culprit away that has been steadily chewing his way through the plants, leaving only the leaf stalks pointing up into the air like unwilling nudists reaching for their clothes.

In the garden, I find reason to apologize to the resident voles. It wasn’t them, my main suspects, it was a snowshoe hare. Quite possibly the same one who’d made a cozy bed for herself in the box of carrot greens a few weeks earlier, leaving a few rabbit pellets in the centre of the compacted greens as a sign of appreciation.

Back at the cabin, small dots of ermine feet indicate that my weaselish friend is still busy harassing the mouse population; a much better occupation than attacking our chickens. Satisfied that all is order in my world, I go back inside to put the feed bucket away. Once the sun has mustered enough energy to climb over the mountains, if not through the clouds, we’ll go and see what went on in the woods since yesterday. Maybe some bear tracks? Though what I’m really hoping for is wolverine. Even if we’ll find no tracks other than rabbit and marten, there’s still the possibility that something was around – Wilson’s trackless spook.

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

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate members Bill Bennett, community engagement coordinator and Mobile Therapeutic Unit team lead, left, and Katherine Alexander, director of policy and analytics, speak to the News about the Mobile Therapeutic Unit that will provide education and health support to students in the communities. (
Mobile Therapeutic Unit will bring education, health support to Indigenous rural students

The mobile unit will begin travelling to communities in the coming weeks

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on January 20, about the new swish and gargle COVID-19 tests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Swish and spit COVID-19 test now available in Yukon

Vaccination efforts continue in Whitehorse and smaller communities in the territory

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

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

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Most Read