Bull Moose in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Our Wildlife

Animals and their habitat depend on a healthy Wilderness

Wildlife and wildlife habitat are fundamental components of Wilderness. Observing wildlife while we are immersed in wild, natural habitats is the quintessential wilderness experience. See the select species below that toxic copper mining would not only disrupt but potentially endanger.  

Wolf in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Wolves

As top predators and critical keystone species, wolves are central to the ecological health of the Boundary Waters ecosystem. By regulating prey populations, they enable many other species of plants and animals to flourish. Wolves are also at the heart of the way we perceive the BWCAW and are of enormous spiritual and cultural significance to Native people living near the Boundary Waters, who want to see wolves protected. The thrill of hearing wolves howling in the night, following recent tracks along a portage trail, catching a glimpse of one in a chance encounter or just the knowledge that they are present, gives us the sense that we are wholly and completely immersed in the Wilderness.  

Common Loon with babies in the Boundary Waters

Common Loon

Far from “common,” the sights and sounds of this iconic species as it moves through the lakes, rivers, and skies of the wilderness landscape are unforgettable. Watching a loon diving for fish, swimming along with a chick on its back, the graceful takeoffs, and landings, and their gathering in ever greater numbers as the summer progresses, are treasured memories. Their plaintive wail, melodic yodel, and wild tremolo are the music of the Wilderness.

Moose

For many of us, spotting a moose turns a good wilderness trip into a great one. There’s nothing better than identifying a distant splashing as a bull in velvet, feasting on aquatic vegetation. Or, hearing a tearing and munching that turns out to be a cow and calf browsing their way through a dense thicket of “moose” maple. Sadly, these sightings have become less common. According to the MN DNR, the moose population in Minnesota has declined from an estimated 8,840 in 2006 to 3,150 in 2020, and reproductive success, one of the factors that have the greatest impact on moose survival over time, remains low. Low reproductive success and continued deaths from brainworm and other diseases make it difficult for Minnesota’s moose population to recover. 

It seems impossible to imagine the Boundary Waters without its moose. But at one-time woodland caribou swam across Boundary Waters lakes, cropped lichen from rock outcrops and trees, and gave wolves and human hunters another dining option. Now they are gone, with no prospect of their coming back in the foreseeable future. The fate of the caribou reminds us that moose may be more vulnerable than they look and that humans have a role in how their future plays out.

Baby Canada Lynx in the Boundary Waters

Canada Lynx

While Canada Lynx populations in the lower-48 states were listed as threatened by the U..S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2000, lynx populations have actually increased—although due to accessibility issues, no recent study has been done on their numbers within the Boundary Waters. The Arrowhead region of Minnesota is one of the areas designated as critical habitat.

The diet of lynx almost wholly depends on snowshoe hare.  Therefore, hare habitat is essential to healthy lynx populations. A copper mine on the edge of the Boundary Waters would threaten both of their livelihoods.