by Edgar J. Lavoie

   On the whole, the wild animals in Geraldton District are pretty well behaved. Bears respect humans. Muskrats respect dogs. And pike, well, pike give fishermen a good fight, but rarely attack their boats. It was not always so.

   In the summer of 1936, forest fires threatened the infant community of Geraldton. From the camps of prospectors and miners scattered around the district came reports of bears driven mad by the heat.

   On July 11, a reporter for the Fort William Daily Times-Journal wrote, “Driven from their homes by the forest fires, the frantic animals have been seen loping wild-eyed through bushlands adjacent to Geraldton and making lives of individual prospectors and mining men working in small groups precarious.”

   In the light of the moon, a black bear raided the cookery of the Magnet mine, west of town. The cook happened to be sleeping in the tent-covered structure. He awoke to see a shadow looming above the door, trying to claw its way in. The cook cried out, and men came a-running. Bruin sauntered down the path and into the bush, quite unabashed.(1)

  In 1940 Geraldton still lived up to its sobriquet, Muskeg Metropolis. Swampy lots and open sewer ditches hosted various bacterial, insectile, and mammalian life.


    In mid-February, at a time when most aquatic life is dormant, a young canine managed to arouse the ire of a muskrat. The pup lit out, tail between its legs, straight up Main Street. People going to fetch their mail at the post office stood goggle-eyed at the sight.

   One intrepid citizen stuck out his foot in defence of the fugitive, and the muskrat sank his teeth into his rubber boot. The man picked up the rodent by its tail, and deposited it gingerly into a box provided by a storekeeper. The captor displayed his captive at both local schools before releasing it.(2)

  In early September 1946, the Geraldton Times Star reported an encounter between two Michigan sportsmen and a pike  ̶  also known as  Northern, a jack, or a snake. “Snake” is probably the apt term here, for the encounter nearly cost the men their lives.

Holy tish!

   Perry and David and Lee had camped on Klotz Lake, east of Longlac. On the fateful day, David and Lee crossed the lake in their 14-foot canoe with its outboard motor. When they were fishing within sight of their camp, a strong wind came up. As they started back to camp, Lee reeled in his line, hooking “one of the largest northern pike I have seen in Canadian waters”.

   For a quarter of an hour the battle raged. Lee coaxed the snake with arm’s length, but he and David could not land it. Meanwhile, the waters grew rougher. They decided to cut the line.

    At that moment the wily snake tugged the canoe broadside to the waves, and the canoe capsized. The fishermen plunged into the icy waters. Down to the bottom went camera, binoculars, rods, reels, and fishing tackle. The snake escaped.

   The men’s woolen clothing quickly soaked up the water. Unable to swim with such weight, they hung on the canoe for dear life. Fortunately, Perry had seen them.

   Perry had been sitting outside their tent, making a pair of beaded moccasins. He saw the canoe capsize. He leapt into his own motorized canoe, and for thirty minutes he fought through the waves.

   Reaching the nearly exhausted David, Perry hauled him aboard. Cautioning Lee to hang on, Perry towed the canoe to shore. Back at camp, the victims changed into dry clothing, and counted their blessings. (3)

   Perhaps it is just as well that nowadays life in the wild seems so tame.


1 “Heat Crazy Bears Roam Flame Zone”, Fort William Daily Times-Journal, July 11, 1936.

2 “Muskrat Chases Dog at Geraldton”, Port Arthur News-Chronicle, Feb. 19, 1940.

3 “Two Americans Saved After Pike Tips Canoe in Klotz Lake Storm”, Geraldton Times Star, Sep. 6, 1946.

Photos unsourced.

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