On May 1st the world lost Gordon Lightfoot. The legendary musician penned hundreds of songs but is most known for his song about the ill-fated freighter Edmund Fitzgerald. You may not know that there is a Minnesota animal connection to the late singer. A wolf pack, studied by the Voyageurs Wolf Project, is named after Lightfoot.

Voyageurs wrote about Gordon Lightfoot's passing on their social media feed, and you can tell that it came from the heart of one of their researchers.

Sadly, the world lost a legendary songwriter and folk singer yesterday when Gordon Lightfoot passed. In our minds, however, Gordon Lightfoot is forever enshrined in VWP history through the Lightfoot Pack, the name of our project boats, and the numerous, previously unnamed landmarks in the Greater Voyageurs Ecosystem (GVE) that we have named after his songs. 

These landmarks include the remote old logging roads we named the Carefree Highway and Ribbon of Darkness, a trail to a remote cabin way back in the middle of nowhere named "Susan’s Floor”, picturesque beaver ponds named “Summertime Dream” and “Gordon”, and a large pine forest named “The Knotty Pines”. There are others but we won’t name all of them! 

And then our boats. Naturally, given Gordon’s proclivity of singing about boats and shipwrecks, we had to name our two project boats after his songs. Specifically, we named them the Yarmouth Castle and Silver Heels. 

Our project boats ain’t pretty, they are a bit leaky, and might not have many years left in them. But they get the job done. 

As Gordon put it: “She’s a good old boat and she’ll stay afloat through the toughest gales and keep smiling”. 

Now, we know some are probably rolling their eyes now and thinking: “these people are strange!” We cannot disagree with that characterization necessarily but if ever there was a day to share such info it is today! 

And then, of course, there is the Lightfoot Pack. 

In 2017, the Ash River Pack dissolved and a “new" pack took over their territory. We were at one of this new pack's abandoned dens that we found via howl surveys in June 2017 when we thought, "What should we call this pack?”. 

The den, which was on the side of a rocky ridge next to a black spruce bog, felt like it was truly in the boreal forest. The den itself was a cavern underneath some mossy covered boulders. 

As we sat at the den, the words from Gordon Lightfoot's song "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" came to us: 

"There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run,
When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun,
Long before the white man and long before the wheel,
When the green dark forest was too silent to be real”. 

That last line in-particular really resonated as here we were at a wolf den in the middle of the forest where all was silent and still...a scene reminiscent of the primordial, untouched wilderness. So we decided then and there that this pack would be the "Lightfoot Pack”. 

The Lightfoot Pack is still around today now 7 years later. And at least one wolf in the pack is a direct descendant of the original breeding pair of the Lightfoot Pack. It is even possible that this one wolf, Wolf B3S, is the new breeding female of the pack but that is to be determined. 

Since 2017, we have studied five collared wolves from the Lightfoot Pack and several of their litters of pups. Through this we have learned much about the predation behavior of wolves, variability of pup survival, and the fate of wolves in GVE. 

We have included several photos from the past 7 years (with captions) to share some of the stories of the Lightfoot wolves. 

And so while Gordon’s life has sadly come to a close, his legacy and music lives on in the wild places of northern Minnesota. So if you have a moment today, put on a Gordon Lightfoot record or two and enjoy some of the best folk music ever made! 

"I've gazed upon the good times I've seen the bad times too,
Felt many a cold and bitter wind and many a mornin’ dew,
I've watched the country growin' like a fair and mighty thing,
And on the still of a summer night I've heard the mountains ring"
While it's been two days since Gordon Lightfoot's passing, maybe put him on, and take some time to appreciate his lyrics and know that he was not only celebrated worldwide but also right here in Minnesota in various, yet special ways.

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