Some time ago, caribou were roaming the North Shore but were driven out. These large deer species prefer mature pine forests. So when logging started removing their habitat, they left. Over-hunting and the appearance of the whitetail deer also all took part in the disappearance of caribou in Minnesota. They left behind only pictures and stories of those who had once seen them.
How Whitetailed Deer Lead to the Caribou Depopulation
When the timber located in northern Minnesota was removed by loggers, young trees appeared. This provided an ideal habitat for whitetail deer. Their population started to soar. Why would this be a problem for caribou? Well, whitetail deer are carriers of parasitic ringworm, which is found in the deers’ brains. Although harmless to them, the parasite is deadly to other mammals. Over time, the population diminished and white-tailed deer took over the land.
Another factor in their disappearance was over-hunting as caribou were once a major source of meat and hides for the Native Americans and European settlers. They were not seen in Minnesota after 1935. That was until a few were spotted north of Grand Marais, most likely migrating from Canada, in the mid-90s. Wildlife experts predict that caribou will most likely never establish themselves in Minnesota again.
Long Gone, But Not Forgotten
While they are long gone from the North Shore, their legacy is not forgotten. Prized, mounted caribou can be seen in various places along the shore. Most notable in the caribou perched over the entryway of the Cascade Restaurant. While enjoying your meal, take in the truly massive size of this large mammal. While not up to scale with local moose, they were definitely a sight to see!