Urban wildlife takes winter in stride under International Bridge
As part of my new day job, just about every day I cross the International Bridge between Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
The roughly two-mile bridge crosses the St. Mary’s River, including the Michigan and Ontario locks, the rapids that are well-known to trout and salmon fishermen, and the canals that generate power for the twin Sault communities.
The bitter-cold temperatures we experienced in December and earlier this month really brought the ice in quickly, and it has been fascinating to see the river change daily. More than once, I’ve wanted to pull over and take some photos.
In spite of the lake freighters and ice breakers bashing their way through the channels, the anglers got on the ice as soon as they could. This winter has already been one of the better in recent memory for anglers, rabbit hunters, skiers and others everywhere in the state. For the past few months, I’ve watched a couple guys fishing off the wall in the approach to the Canadian lock. They wasted no time in switching over to a portable ice shack once the ice came in. I believe they are catching whitefish and rainbow trout.
In spite of the cold, the “urban” wildlife under the bridge keep at their daily routines. I see bald eagles just about every day, either soaring over the river or sitting on the ice, eating lunch. A few hundred mallards spend the winter on the river, roosting in the rapids and in the warm discharge waters downstream from Algoma Steel on the Canadian side. Another hundred or more goldeneyes spend the winter feeding in the rapids and in the power canals. They don’t join the mallards when they fly into the Sault, Ontario, mall parking lot to be fed by residents. Occasionally I’ll see a mink on the ice below, and fox tracks are everywhere, on and off the ice, on both sides of the international border.
The other day, in single-digit temperatures, a raven sat on the fence at Canadian Customs and croaked at us while we were getting out of our work truck. It was so cold and the bird was so big that it was exhaling smoke rings with its raucous calling. I fumbled for my phone to get a video, but I wasn’t quick enough. I’ve never seen a bird’s breath in the cold.
Seeing all of this outdoor activity during the work day keeps me primed for future fishing and hunting trips. I’m jealous of those guys who fish nearly every day in the Canadian lock and hope that someday I’m lucky enough to spend that much time fishing and hunting.
A guy can dream.