SUBSCRIBE NOW Just 99¢ for your first month



Trailcam captures busy life on Voyageurs ‘wolf and bear highway’

Recently released video by the Voyageurs Wolf Project offers an intimate look at the busy lives of wolves, bears, moose, otters and lynx that call the national park home.

Wolf on cam at Voyageurs
A video captures a wolf in the wild at Voyageurs National Park.
Contributed / Voyageurs Wolf Project via MPR
We are part of The Trust Project.

NEAR INTERNATIONAL FALLS, Minn. — Wolves, moose, bears and lynx all call Minnesota’s North Woods home — but they can be a little camera-shy.

So when a well-placed trail camera captured all those creatures and more last fall in Voyageurs National Park in a kind of extended wildlife parade, researchers saw it not only as a scientific success but an opportunity for the public to see a part of life that mostly goes unnoticed.

Filmed day and night, “One month on the wolf and bear highway” shows a bear and cub running together across the grass, a curious moose investigating the team’s camera, more hungry bears, more moose, a lynx, marten and fisher, a family of otters, cats and wolves exploring their territory.

Footage from the Voyageurs Wolf Project confirmed that a pack the group’s been following in the area, called the Whiskey Point pack, produced a litter of pups. At least four were still alive as of October.

“It was a breeding pair, a mom and dad, basically. And then they produced pups, and now the pack is bigger, and that’s really cool,” said biologist Thomas Gable, whose team shared the fall footage of the wild animals living and playing in Voyageurs.


“Whenever a group of wolves takes over a territory, the real question is, are they going to produce pups?” he said, adding that the footage supports their data about how wolf packs grow, and how pups survive into adulthood.

Some of the other wildlife captured was fascinating, too. The lynx is a cryptic animal that can be hard to document, Gable said, and it was an unexpected surprise to see several different moose in that part of Minnesota.

The bears filmed in Voyageurs are always hungry, said Joseph Bump, an associate professor with the University of Minnesota Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology who works with Gable.

“They’re trying to maximize their weight gain before that winter slumber,” Bump said of the bears. Forests, a lake and a game trail help to sustain diverse wildlife. “It’s just neat to think about that whole community,” he added.

Funded through the University of Minnesota and Minnesota’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Voyageurs Wolf Project examines wolf behavior and ecology.


Researchers used their expertise to pick camera sites that would capture wildlife. Choosing the “highway” paid off.

“With these remote cameras, and with the technology available now, you can get pretty high definition videos delivered to people’s phones,” Bump said.

Moose on voyageurs cam
A video screen grab of a moose at Voyageurs National Park.
Contributed / Voyageurs Wolf Project via MPR

As they continue to follow the wolves and gather data, Bump said they are working to better understand how humans and wolves coexist, and approaches to minimizing conflict between wolves and livestock in the region.


As they share videos like the wolf and bear highway, the team hopes to encourage public appreciation and empathy.

“Voyageurs National Park and the surrounding area is really a national treasure,” Bump said. “And the wildlife that’s in it is pretty amazing.”

What to read next
Humans have eaten venison from CWD-infected deer before and did not get the disease, but at a recent Minnesota legislative hearing on this year’s environment and natural resources bill, a leader in the state’s effort to trace CWD said the key to preventing a possible animal-human jump is identifying and slowing the spread.
"The week is designed to help raise public awareness for aquatic nuisance species and the steps we can take to prevent them from getting into our waterways," says Ben Holen, North Dakota Game and Fish Department ANS coordinator.
The plan greenlights a variety of projects with money from Minnesota's outdoor heritage, clean water, parks and trails and cultural heritage funds.
You may be eligible even if you don’t have a fisheries and wildlife degree or law enforcement background.