Painful Truth: Hinterland what-the-heck-is-it?

Canada’s wilderness is filled with some amazing plants and animals. We’re all familiar with the mighty grizzly bear, the leaping salmon, and the noble jackalope, but what of the more obscure creatures from our great country? Today, we’ll take a look at some of these lesser known animals.

• The Bear-Burrowing Pika.

Found in the Canadian Rockies and as far north as Yukon Territory, the bear-burrower, also known as DeGroot’s greater parasitic lagomorph, has evolved a strange relationship with the grizzly.

Instead of avoiding large bears, during mating season, a pair of the pika will seek out a grizzly, the larger the better. They will then burrow into the giant’s fur while it sleeps, eventually forming a nest of interconnected dens amid the thick fur. The pika will mate and give birth to their young there.

Meanwhile, the bear, maddened by being able to smell delicious pika, will spin around repeatedly, trying desperately to find the small mammals.

Eventually it will starve, and the grizzly’s carcass will provide food for the young pika just as they are born.

• Merlin’s Salmon

These fish closely resemble the well-known coho, but have adopted a decidedly different life cycle.

We are all familiar with the egg-fry-adult salmon cycle. Merlin’s Salmon does the same thing in reverse. Merlins are always seen first as full adults, often looking somewhat ill, in upstream spawning beds. They then swim back out to the ocean, steadily shrinking, before returning again several years later. They then return to their fry state and eventually shrink to eggs, which then vanish.

No one has ever seen a Merlin’s salmon actually “born,” and research continues on captive specimens.

Scientists have yet to definitively link the salmon to the remains of a radioactive Delorean found buried under two million years worth of sediment near the Thompson River.

• The Scarborough Raccoon

Raccoons, with their clever hands, large brains, and total lack of morals, have made themselves at home in all major Canadian cities. The Scarborough racoon, however, is now recognized as a distinct subspecies.

This raccoon is slightly larger than its cousins, and has a thinner coat. It is mainly identified by its behaviours, which include the ability to open doors, to light small fires, and to hunt domestic pets with sharpened sticks.

Reputable scientists say there is simply no evidence that the spray-painted marks found in Scarborough raccoon territory are “raccoon writing.”

Reports of them picking locks, using cellphones, and stealing and raising human infants still require further investigation.

• Flemming’s Alarming Moose

Recognizable due to its bright orange and black stripes, the alarming moose is smaller than its nearest relatives, but considerably more dangerous. It is a peaceful herbivore, but startling the moose causes a series of chemical sacs in its abdomen to rupture. The chemicals within mix, become highly volatile, and explode. More than one unwary hunter has been brought to an emergency room with half an antler embedded in his shoulder like shrapnel.

Bears and wolves will avoid the alarming moose at all costs.

• The Levitating Spruce

Sadly extinct, the only remaining sign of this rare tree is the wood cabin of Charlie Lartigue, north of Kapuskasing. It can be viewed from a lookout on Ontario Highway 11, or reached by rope ladder, if Charlie lets it down.

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