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Superior National Forest Update: March 31

Hi. I’m Sarah Poznanovic, natural resource specialist with the National Forest Update for March 31 - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the beginning of April, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

Spring is here for sure. Our snow cover is rapidly vanishing, and the ice is weakening on area lakes, though it remains pretty thick for now. All this melt water is, as usual, making clear why the nickname given to spring around here is ‘the mud season.' You may notice it in the amount of dirt appearing in your front hallway, but on the Forest, it is evident in the condition of our roads. What were firmly frozen, almost paved, roads in the winter are turning into road Jello in some places. The county has enacted spring road restrictions, creating a maximum 4 ton axle weight, and minimizing the logging truck traffic on the Forest. Your pick-up may be a lot less than 4 tons, but that restriction should remind you that roads in the spring can be treacherous, and it is easy to get mired down in low spots. While we have no reports at this time of washouts, they will be happening as well, so keep your eyes open when you enter low lying areas, and don’t be afraid to stop your vehicle in a safe location to get out and check the roadway. Should you get stuck, the best idea is to call for assistance. Pulling a vehicle out of the mud with inadequate equipment can be extremely dangerous when overstressed chains, straps, or ropes snap. It is a good idea to also think of the damage you can cause to the road if you drive in very muddy conditions. The ruts you create now may be haunting you all summer long when you try to get your boat trailer up to the lake.

Of course, spring isn’t all mud and drizzle. It also means the return of migrating birds and animals, and the beginnings of new life for many of them. Returning juncoes, the cries of gulls near Lake Superior, and robins hopping in the newly exposed grass all tell us spring is here. Our resident birds, including owls, eagles, crows, and ravens, are all setting up housekeeping. Owls and eagles started this quite a while ago and are already well into incubation, or even taking care of hatchlings. Ravens and crows aren’t quite that far along, but almost every one that you see flying seems to have a stick in its beak for nest building. While not as visible as the birds, things are stirring in the mammal world as well. Sometime in the near future, wolf pups will be born, along with many other animals such as foxes, lynx, and marten. Bears had their cubs back in January, but may now be starting to think about getting out of the den and looking for food, like backyard bird feeders.

While spring is a time for beginnings, there are also a couple of good-byes on the Forest. Unless it turns out to be an April Fool’s joke, Gunflint District Ranger Nancy Larson is retiring at the beginning of April, along with Mary Ann Atwood who has worked a variety of positions including at the front desk. We wish them both the best in this next phase of their lives!

Keep an eye out for signs of spring, and watch out for those muddy roads! Until next time, this has been Sarah Poznanovic with the Superior National Forest Update.