is about a remote area in west central British Columbia, Canada
called the West Chilcotin. Surrounded by numerous glacial mountain
ranges, alpine lakes teeming with wild Rainbow Trout, and full
of wildlife. Living here goes from no running water or electricity
to spacious log homes with all the conveniences and without
Wilderness Adventures - Feb, Week 2/2007
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of the Day.
Valentine's Day everyone! I hope you had as nice a day
as we did here in the Chilcotin. The sun was shining
and the temperature well above freezing all day, so other
than a brisk wind, we had a glorious day. Sun certainly
improves the mood!
A lovely lady down at the south end of Nimpo Lake likes
to live and celebrate life in her own distinct, happy
manner, and one way that she does that is to do nice things
Andy called me today after being up at Nimpo and
told me that I should go up and take pictures of the unusual
'art work' lining Highway 20 all through Nimpo Lake.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance but I have a pretty
good idea of what it looked like because I saw my friend's
artwork last week around her place.
Andy sounded quite surprised at all these different shapes,
colors and sizes imbedded in the snow all along the highway,
stating that there must have been at least a hundred of
them! I'm sure there were at least that many!
Bernice likes to fill any container possible such as plastic
glasses, baking sheets, salad molds or anything with an
unusual shape with water dyed with food coloring. She
sets the containers out to freeze and then pulls the frozen
shape out and sets it in or on the snow. Sometimes she
decorates her shapes with interesting objects. One such
piece of art over at her place had some kid's tiny tonka
like toys imbedded in the ice. I'm sure he'll be wondering
where the heck his little toy trucks went. The whole
effect of these brightly colored objects in fresh white
snow reflecting the sunlight is really quite dazzling.
In particular, it's fun! Bernice has fun making her objects
and it brings a smile to the faces of those that see them
because they seem so out of place.
Heaven only knows when she painstakingly
placed each and every one, whether late last night or
early, early this morning. But it would have been a surprise,
a gift from her to everyone else. Just because.
Sadly, we've lost a moose in the area. Mary
down at the north end of the lake noticed coyotes milling
around on the lake acting strangely and finally took a
run down to have a look. There wasn't much left of a moose
laying on the ice, only legs and the gut part of the carcass.
Impossible to say what killed it but the coyotes have
definitely been scavenging it. That explains the presence
of the two coyotes I saw out on the ice yesterday at two
I'm really hoping that the dead animal isn't the calf
that has been hanging around with its mother along that
side of the lake all winter. You have to wonder
if there were enough coyotes to run a small moose down,
if it was wounded by native hunters and only made it that
far, or if wolves actually pulled it down. Mazy
insists that she heard two wolves howl the night before
last and I know that some people have seen a couple around.
The jury is still out on that track I've been seeing but
there's certainly no reason why the odd wolf wouldn't
have followed the game down out of the mountains. However,
this is also the favorite time of year for the aborigines
to claim their 'cultural hunting rights' (How their 'ancient
cultural heritage' can include rifles and snowmobiles
is beyond me.) so it's more than possible that the
moose was wounded and was taken down by predators or simply
died on the ice.
Surprisingly, it still isn't that easy for a predator
to chase game in the woods, especially now with warm temperatures
and a melting wind. The snow is extremely soft and I should
think the advantage would still go to the game in the
deep snow. But if an animal was run for a long time
through that deep snow, and then pushed out onto the ice
after being exhausted, the advantage would suddenly go
to the predator, whether wolves, coyotes or a
pack of dogs. The latter is unlikely simply because I
haven't heard of any dogs running loose or in packs.
One odd coincidence. Just after I learned of the dead
moose and hung up the phone I happened to look out the
front window. Walking across the lake to the small
island was an adult moose looking either very tired or
very dejected. It was moving really, really slowly
with its head hanging down. Just a different posture from
what you normally see. I'm hoping that is not an indication
that the moose are being run in the area
to the point of exhaustion.
Actually, I just had a thought. I wonder if that
single moose that kept trying to hook up with the cow
calf pair was actually the mother of the really small
calf Andy saw along the Dean a while back. He
was quite surprised at how small the animal was and just
suggested that if the carcass on the lake was small, then
it might be possible the calf just couldn't make it through
the winter, or it was hunted down. But the single moose
was trying to hook up with the pair over a week ago, so
the kill would have to be at least that old.
any case, I'm deeply saddened by the loss of the moose.
We can ill afford to lose even one but I think we all
accept that game losses will be very high this year.
saw a little bit of sun today, high cloud and actually
got to see the mountains for a while today. Since Andy
and his instructor were both tired of hitting the books
and being cabin bound for the past week or so, and I was
tired of the overcast days, we decided we all needed a
So we went snowmachining today.
Mazy has ridden little since she was a child but she has
ridden motorcycles and did very well, picking up the pace
and showing good balance by this afternoon.
We took it really easy and just made it a trail ride today
with nothing strenuous, covering only about 45 miles or
less. I guess you really can't count playing around
practicing turns in Gus's Meadow or playing roller coaster
on the banks along Charlotte Main and Hooch as actual
miles in trail riding. Since we didn't have a
destination in mind, weren't trying to beat the weather
to the top of Trumpeter and didn't have a big group of
riders to answer to, we just kind of did as we pleased.
We all got to play big kid today.
We started off on the right foot this morning with a coyote
out on the Main Arm of Nimpo Lake that I circled a couple
of times. I wanted to get a closer look at it but they
sure can move! There was another coyote at the north end
of the lake this evening that deked off the lake and into
the woods when I came on it. It was a little bigger than
the one I saw this morning and it looked like it had been
tracking a rabbit.
Surprisingly, I saw moose tracks going up Charlotte
Main on old snowmobile tracks so I guess not all of them
have been driven out of the higher elevations.
I know there's a big bull that hangs around up there so
maybe he finds the deep snow of little consequence and
preferable to the company of people.
There's a good hard crust not far beneath the top layer
of fluffy white. Conditions are perfect for an amateur
because you can go pretty much anywhere you want and mistakes
won't cost you a bad stuck. But you could break through
the crust if you really worked at it, and then the snow
Andy put his machine over a couple of times doing turns
down in Gus's Meadow and once the track breaks through
the drifts or crust formed during that melt a few weeks
back, you can get a machine stuck. We finally got
to try out a device we purchased last year on the advice
of our friends from Quesnel. You can hook one
end on the ski or front bumper and the other has a handle
with a whole lot of stretch in between. Both Andy and
I were practicing leaning on it just to see what it would
do in terms of moving a heavy sled out of stuck. Seems
to work like a hot darn but we'll probably get a refresher
course from Bill in March on how to properly use the thing.
I can definitely see the value of carrying such a device
when there are only a couple of people riding together
and you don't have the combined manpower of a big group
to help you get a sled out of a bad spot. Even then,
this little thingy majiggy gives you a lot better purchase
and leverage from a much better position than bent double
over a ski trying to pull on it with your hands and scramble
out of the way when the machine does start to move.
All in all, it was a nice refreshing start to a week where
our weather is predicted to be just as grim as it has
been for the past week. Just to show you how bad it's
been take a look at the picture up on the top right. That
isn't snow on the branches of those trees. That's layer
after layer of frost built up from clouds rolling in low
over the mountains day after day and full of moisture.
At least we got some fresh air today, (well maybe a lot
of gas and oil fumes as well) and a viewpoint different
from that of looking out a window all day yearning to
you know that moose are actually fairly new immigrants
to the Chilcotin?
Other than fur bearing animals, Mule deer and caribou
were the only large game west of the Fraser River known
to the early explorers, traders and Indians, and
were heavily relied on for food. It's said that large
herds of elk were present in the country long before the
memory of the oldest Indians but legends have it that
the herds disappeared after a particularly harsh winter.
Their antlers can still be found buried and preserved
in swamps and marshes. I always wondered about that because
while hunting a meadow at the base of the Itcha Mountains
years ago I found what I was certain were very old, very
decayed, half buried elk antlers. They certainly weren't
According to one of the books written on the history of
the Chilcotin: "An Indian named Moleese killed
a moose at Indian Meadow in the fall of 1916. He didn't
know what this huge beast was but figured it might be
good to eat. Afraid to taste the meat, he cut out the
tongue and lips and galloped off to his tribe to talk
to his friends. The rest of the tribe was excited, too,
and a dozen men accompanied him with pack horses back
to the kill to bring in the meat, head and horns. But
no one knew what the big mowich was, not even the Old
One who had lived for over a hundred years."
Frederick Metheun Becher was born in India in 1862. His
father was a colonel in the Britsh Army and was transferred
from India to Northern Ireland where Fred grew up and
was educated. As a young man, Fred came to Canada and
in 1880 joined the Hudson's Bay Company where he served
as a trader at Fort St. John, hundreds of miles north
and east of the Chilcotin. Later he moved down onto the
Fraser and got a job packing freight to Hanceville (Lee's
Corner). Eventually he set up a trading post and built
the first big hotel with a saloon at Riske Creek and ran
the Post Office there for better than 30 years. (The
rolling grasslands at Riske Creek are still called Becher's
Prairie and the dam system he built is on the left along
Highway 20 coming west through the hairpin corners just
before Riske Creek.) The reason I give some background
on Becher is because it's just an example of the varied
and colorful characters that moved into and settled the
wild, Chilcotin country.
It was Fred Becher that identified the animal that
Moleese had killed when the hide and horns were brought
to him at the trading post. He was the only person
in the area familiar with the ungulate because of his
trading background with the Hudson Bay Company.
The first moose killed in the Big Creek country was shot
by two cowboys in 1927. By 1930, apparently there were
moose everywhere and the country became overrun with them.
It's said though, that many died off during the hard winters
in the 1950's. In Rich Hobson's books about he
and Pan Phillips' adventures when he and Pan first ride
over the mountains from Anahim Lake into the Blackwater
looking for ranchland, he describes seeing huge
herds of moose on the miles of meadows that stretch over
that country. I'm not sure everyone believed him
because it's said Rich and Pan were prone to exaggeration,
but legend seems to back them up.
When I first came into this country in the late
1980's there were moose everywhere! The mill had
moved in and opened up logging roads into previously inaccessible
areas. Guys that worked at the sawmill up at Morrison
Meadows packed rifles in their trucks and numerous
moose came back down in the back of pickups or on top
of a load of logs in the fall. Word got out and
hunters from Vancouver and the Okanagan streamed into
the country every hunting season where it became a wholesale
slaughter. It got so bad that the RCMP set up check points
and in the one day alone that they stopped 72 vehicles
on the back roads, they found that only two were local.
One pickup loaded with hunters from Kelowna even
had a chair in the box on which a hunter was comfortably
perched with his rifle as they hunted the logging roads.
Natives and locals alike became extremely worried about
the depletion of the moose herds and finally, albeit way
too late, the area went into limited hunting status.
It has taken years for our moose populations to rebuild
somewhat, although I don't think they will ever again
be what they were. We are seeing more and more deer move
into the area, not just Mule deer but the odd Whitetail.
Is that because Mother Nature hates a vaccuum or the natural
progression of things? There has to be a reason
moose moved into the country only a century ago.
Did predators drive them down from the north? Several
consecutive winters with extremely deep snow? Or did their
food source change?
Weather change has a significant impact on the movement
of species and perhaps there is a reason deer populations
in the area are on the rise, while moose populations decline.
This winter we are seeing moose grouped together
in larger numbers than ever before but I think
that can be attributed to moose being driven out of the
higher elevations by deep snow and is not
indicative of increased numbers.
Several massive forest fires in the Chilcotin in 2004
and 2005 pushed animals into areas that hadn't been burned
over and we saw an increase in the numbers of black bear,
grizzly, deer and moose seen in our region. I suspect
that the Mountain Beetle infestion will change the makeup
of our region even more but I don't know how that will
affect game natural to this area. Will it eventually
result in more meadows, standing water, aspen stands or
rolling grasslands? Any change to the flora is going to
result in a change in the fauna. It will be interesting
to see by how much.
Today is yet another grim, grim day, as was yesterday.
I had to force myself to ski on the lake yesterday. It
just seems like work rather than fun when there is no
sun and the mountains are cloaked in low, grey cloud.
It snowed a bit yesterday and is snowing a little today,
so I guess we're at least getting some benefit from those
clouds. According to the weatherman it isn't going
to improve anytime soon. That means my mood isn't
going to either. Talk about winter blahs!
no, I don't mean the four legged kind. Several low, cloudy
days in a row with no sun have resulted in area residents
being somewhat grumpy, myself included. At least today
high cloud is allowing a glimmer of sun through and has
resulted in an improved mood for all.
One of the keen benefits of living in the Chilcotin
in winter is the normally clear, sunny days. The
sullen overcast of this past week is unusual in February,
a month that is normally one of the best winter months
for getting outside and picking up a little sun. Even
though often cold, clear skies are usually the order of
the day. Cold, dreary overcast and snow flurries are
not. As one that suffers from lack of sun, I can't
imagine living in a place like Vancouver, the Okanagan
or even Prince George, where overcast for weeks and months
on end is the norm in winter. The trade off is the temperature,
I guess. But I'll take the cold as long as I can
see that yellow orb in the sky.
I traded grumpiness for some wings and a few beer with
Andy's instructor over at The Dean on Nimpo
last night, which helped. The food, company and atmosphere
make Pilot's a great pick me up for the winter blues and
I highly recommend it to summer or winter
It looks like that cow moose and calf have allowed
the single to hook up with their little group, albeit
grudgingly. Andy saw all three running across
Nimpo Lake yesterday and a friend down at the south end
of the lake saw the three together as well. The group
of four are still around as is the big single bull that
hangs out down by the gun range.
The same friend down on the south end thought she
saw two wolves crossing the lake the other day.
She said they were large enough and dark enough to be
wolves but once they started howling in the woods they
sounded more like coyotes so it's hard to say. It's mating
season so they could be either/or.
I went out for a ski this afternoon and finally made it
to Dot Island. Only a six mile round trip but not
made easy by the complete destruction of my ski track
in places, this time not by snowmobilers but animals.
Apparently both the moose and coyotes decided this was
Highway 101 and especially the coyotes must have found
the track a perfect fit. Where the moose followed it or
crossed it periodically, the pack of coyotes followed
it for a good mile or so. The only thing saving the track
was the fresh snow we had two days ago that served to
fill in the tracks a bit under my skis.
I estimated somewhere between four and eight in
the pack and it turned out it was just ahead of me.
When I rounded the corner on the last leg to Dot Island,
with a low peninsula between me and the shore across the
bay, the pack must have spotted me. They set up quite
a yippy ruckus, totally freaked the bigger dog out (he's
a bit of a chicken liver), and judging by the noise there
were quite a number of them. The coyotes quieted
down once I rounded the corner into the bay and
though I never saw them, I assume they were just inside
the tree line across the little bay, because the dogs
kept a sharp eye on the shoreline the whole time I was
there. They threw cautious glances down our back trail
quite a while after we left and I got the impression that
River wasn't the least bit happy with the whole episode.
I suspect from his attitude that he's had a run in with
The arrival of coyotes in those numbers explains
why that single moose was so desperate to hook up with
another group. Whether they have any hope of taking
one down or not, coyotes in those numbers will probably
be putting the moose on the move, and I suppose it's possible
that they may target the calf although probably without
any success. That's more likely to be the job of wolves
with coyotes scavenging the leftovers. Hopefully, if the
scat and tracks I've seen indicate wolf, it's only one
or two at most, and our moose and caribou can winter in
peace. Still lots of fresh moose tracks on the other
side of the lake so nothing has moved them out yet!
In any case, a little sunshine, a long ski run and lots
of tracks to make things interesting does a great deal
to raise the spirit.
As you have probably noticed, I've been a little slow
starting a new week. If you would like to see all the
moose pictures or read the articles for last week, you'll
find them at February,
Week One .
The purpose of this web site is to draw attention to a
remote area of west central British Columbia. It is a
beautiful area that relies heavily on tourism. The search
engines don't know much about the West Chilcotin, Anahim
Lake, Nimpo Lake or any of the other small communities
in the region and I hope to change that! Even as large
as this site will eventually be, there just isn't enough
room or time in the day to fully describe this incredible
country but I am going to try scraping away at the tip
of the iceberg, so join me!
the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!