“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Waskish in Beltrami County, Minnesota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)

The Big Bog's Caribou Band

The Big Bog's Caribou Band Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By McGhiever, August 30, 2021
1. The Big Bog's Caribou Band Marker
Inscription.  The Big Bog was the last refuge for the lower 48 states' woodland caribou, which vanished in the 1940s. Although caribou survived in Minnesota for a century after they disappeared in Wisconsin and Michigan, multiple threats took their toll here. Many were killed for food by loggers, trappers, and homesteaders. Peatland drainage projects, farming, and fires damaged habitat. Settlement also created conditions that drew white tailed deer and their deadly parasites to northern Minnesota.

Late 1920s
The Big Bog Caribou band is considered the last resident herd in the U.S. In 1928, it dwindles to 13, raising fear of extinction.

Fire consumes 1,600 square miles of the Big Bog.

Minnesota established the 480,000-acre Red Lake Wildlife Refuge to preserve caribou and other big game.

Beltrami Island Resettlement Project begins, aiding caribou by relocating settlers, reducing poaching, and blocking drainage ditches.

Ten caribou from Saskatchewan travel to a corral on Ludlow Island. The largest bull travels (by Caterpillar
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tractor) to a fenced area south of Hillman Lake. He joins the last three cows of the original band.

The remaining captive caribou move to the Hillman Lake enclosure.

Four cows give birth. The last original cow dies, probably from old age. The Bell Museum of Natural History acquires her remains.

Food shortage prompts the release of all 15–20 caribou from the Hillman Lake enclosure.

Aerial searches reveal no sign of caribou in their Big Bog range or the Hillman Lake area.

Unverified reports mention tracks and fleeting glimpses of caribou in Minnesota, mostly near the Canadian border.

Caribou trails trod more than 80 years ago still crisscross the Big Bog.

Caribou Brought From Canada, 1938

Jack Manweiler Tends Big Bog Caribou, 1939
Manweiler led the intense effort to save the vanishing caribou.

Reindeer Moss Fed to Caribou, 1939
This photo was probably taken on Ludlow Island.

And That's a Lot of Moss!
Caribou Facts
The Micmac Indian word for caribou is xalibu, meaning "one that shovels." Caribou use their hooves to shovel food from beneath the snow, creating feeding places called craters.

Marker along Big Bog State Recreation Area's Bog Boardwalk image. Click for full size.
Photographed By McGhiever, August 30, 2021
2. Marker along Big Bog State Recreation Area's Bog Boardwalk
male and female caribou grow antlers. Bulls shed them after the fall rut. Cows keep theirs until spring. They're a boon to survival for the cow, her unborn calf, and her previous year's calf—she uses them against males to defend food craters.

In places where a person sinks knee-deep in the bog, caribou footprints are only a few inches deep. Large, bowl-shaped hooves distribute the weight.

Woodland caribou live in Canada, Alaska, and other parts of the far north.
Erected by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Animals. A significant historical year for this entry is 1942.
Location. 48° 17.495′ N, 94° 34.021′ W. Marker is near Waskish, Minnesota, in Beltrami County. Marker can be reached from State Highway 72, on the left when traveling north. The marker is in the northern unit of Big Bog State Recreation Area (fee area), on the Bog Boardwalk trail. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Waskish MN 56685, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 7 other markers are within 9 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Bog That Couldn't Be Tamed (approx. 0.2 miles away); Ludlow Island History (approx. 0.3 miles away); The Patterned Peatland: Rare and Valuable (approx. half a mile away); The Old Waskish Town Site
Bonus tree frog image. Click for full size.
Photographed By McGhiever, August 31, 2021
3. Bonus tree frog
(approx. 8.4 miles away); Harry Davidson (approx. 8˝ miles away); The Marina (approx. 8.6 miles away); Where There is Smoke / Forests of the Agassiz Lowlands (approx. 8.8 miles away).
Credits. This page was last revised on January 15, 2022. It was originally submitted on January 9, 2022, by McGhiever of Minneapolis, Minnesota. This page has been viewed 337 times since then and 19 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on January 9, 2022, by McGhiever of Minneapolis, Minnesota. • J. Makali Bruton was the editor who published this page.

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Feb. 26, 2024